After missing out on the Final Four two out of the last three years, the Archers were hungry to make it back to the Final Four during the UAAP Season 75. Led by the eventual Rookie of the Year Jeron Teng, the La Salle faithful are ready to put the dark years behind and look forward to rebuilding a contender.
After posting a respectable 9-5 record, a huge improvement from the 5-9 record the year before, La Salle made it back to the Final Four by defeating the Terrence Romeo and RR Garci-led FEU squad in a thrilling do-or-die game to determine who gets the last Final Four spot. The reward? A date with our arch-rival, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles, with the Blue Eagles holding a twice-to-beat advantage. In their Final Four date, La Salle enjoyed a double-digit lead during the early parts of the fourth quarter. But then the Phenom, Keifer Ravena, went Mamba mode and started scoring at will. With the Archers down 64-63, Jeron drove hard to the basket. He was clearly fouled by Ryan Buenafe but the refs did not call it. Buenafe made the last 2 free throws of the game for the final count, 66-63, and La Salle’s season was over.
It was a good season for the boys from Taft, making it back to the Final Four. But we all know there is a season within the season for Lasallians and Ateneans, and those are the Ateneo-La Salle games. And once again, La Salle did not beat Ateneo when it mattered the most. The 2012 season of the green and white is a good one, but beating Ateneo is always one of the main goals – some would say a goal more important than the championship itself – and the DLSU faithful need to wait another year for its revenge.
Three weeks before the start of this year’s UAAP, La Salle management dropped a huge announcement – Gee Abanilla was “re-called” by Petron due to a “re-organization” by the flagship franchise of the San Miguel Corporation. So Gee steps down as the head coach just weeks before the season. Replacing him is his lead assistant Juno Sauler. He is a true green Lasallian and played for the DLSZ Jr Archers and the DLSU Green Archers during the bridesmaid years in the ’90s. He was an assistant coach for Coach Franz Pumaren during the glory years of La Salle and led the Lady Archers to several UAAP Women’s championship. It is a huge risk for La Salle, making a coaching move so near from the opening of the season, and the La Salle faithful are hoping that the risk will pay off. Assistant Coach Mac Cuan is also gone for the Archers as he accepted an offer to be part of the coaching staff of the 16-and-under National team. He missed a lot of games during the FilOil Cup as he concentrated with the San Miguel Beermen of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) where is also an assistant coach. The legendary triggerman Allan Caidic also joined the Archers as an assistant coach. The La Salle faithful are hoping he can teach the Archers to shoot free throws, one of the main weaknesses of the squad.
There were a number of player changes for the Archers as well. Veteran energy guys like David Webb and Jovet Mendoza graduated already. Bench big guys such as Alfonso Gotladera transferred to Ateneo while Papot Parades left the team during the latter part of the pre-season to concentrate on his studies and try his luck in the PBA D-League. Mac Tallo also transferred to Cebu powerhouse SWU. Yutien Andrada blew his ACL during the FilOil Cup and will miss the entire year. Defensive specialist Jed Manguera is also no longer in the lineup. There are four incoming rookies for DLSU: Jason Perkins, Robert Bollick, Kib Montalbo and Matt Salem. Perkins is a hard-working big guy who can score and rebound, a Charles Barkley-type of player. I expect him to get the most playing time among the rookies. Bollick is a big guard from La Salle Greenhills Greenies. He can play the point, plays well on defense and had good minutes during the pre-season. There was so much hype surrounding the Bacolod-native Montalbo. He did show flashes of brilliance during the off-season but he was benched for a lot of games during the latter part of the tournament, partly due to the heavy guard rotation of the Archers. Lets see if he can get decent minutes during the UAAP. Salem barely played during the off-season, don’t expect him to play a lot of games in the UAAP.
1. Deep Guard Rotation
A strength for La Salle is their deep guard rotation. Some guards who will ride the bench can be part of the rotation of other UAAP teams. Guys like Tampus and Montalbo may not get a lot of minutes from La Salle this coming season but they are good players who can contribute for other teams. Thomas Torres, LA Revilla, Robert Bollick and Kib Montalbo will play the point. Vosotros and Tampus are the combo guards. Jeron Teng and Gabby Reyes will split their time in the between the two and three positions. Throw in veteran shooter Luigi Dela Paz. A loaded guard rotation indeed for La Salle. Coach Sauler decided to just use 13 players for the final lineup even though the UAAP allows 16. He said this is for him to get an easier rotation.
2. Strong Management and Alumni Support
Another strength for the Archers is a strong management group. Led by Boss Danding Cojuangco of the San Miguel Corporation, DLSU has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Manny Pangilinan-bankrolled Ateneo and the Sy family-owned NU. As we all know, recruitment is a big part of the UAAP and you need a strong management group to recruit. The fans, the students and alumni will ALWAYS support the Archers no matter what and that should serve as a motivation.
1. Thin Frontline rotation
A weakness for La Salle is their thin frontline rotation. During the start of the FilOil, La Salle was loaded with five quality big guys – Arnold Van Opstal, Norbert Torres, Yutien Andrada, Jason Perkins and Papot Parades. Then Andrada suffered an ACL. Then Paredes left the team. Now DLSU is down to three big guys. Granted, these are three very good “4/5” players. But if one of them gets it foul trouble, has an off-night, or (knock on wood) gets hurt, the big man rotation of the Archers will be in trouble, unless DLSU wants to play small ball and put Jeron in the 4 spot, though that is unlikely.
2. Sudden change in Coaching Staff
Another possible weakness is the sudden change of coaching staff three weeks before the season. Juno Sauler has what it takes to be a very good UAAP coach but there may not be enough time. La Salle needs to adjust and adjust quickly.
3. FREE THROWS!
And yeah, FREE THROWS! La Salle is a horrible free throw shooting team and they’ll needs to improve if they want a shot at the title.
Haters gonna hate but Jeron Teng is the King Archer. Sure this team is loaded but it is still upon his broad shoulders to carry the team back to the promise land. Teng had a very good rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year and giving hope to Lasallians that the dark years are over, and reclaiming the crown from the Ateneans is a possibility. He averaged a team high 16.6 PPG during the elimination round last year. He shot a good 34.4% from the rainbow area. However, he just shot under 40% from the field and had a horrendous 56.7% from the line. In the FilOil, he averaged a decent 12.3 PPG. But he just shot 36% from the field. And a horrible 61% from the line! He needs to improve his shot selection and decision-making. The fate of La Salle basketball is with the younger Teng brother, and who knows, maybe he needs to eliminate his older brother for a spot in the Final Four or in the Finals. And yeah, JERON NEEDS TO MAKE HIS FREETHROWS!
The former DLSZ superstar just played one game last year, during the garbage time of a second round win over UE. He made a late jumper for his only points of the tournament. Come FilOil this year, he emerged as one of the better scoring guards of the Archers. He can play both the two and the three positions. He can shoot the three, he can drive to the basket and he can jump and dunk. If he can play well in the UAAP, perhaps an 8 – 10 PPG average and be the third scoring option for the guards/wingmen position after Jeron and “Vosotress,” DLSU will be a very formidable team. After a year toiling on the bench, Gabby got his confidence back in the summer. If he can continue to build confidence and be consistent, the sky is the limit for this kid and for the entire DLSU team.
When DLSU posted a 5-0 record in the FilOil, people were saying that La Salle was a contender for the UAAP crown. When the Green Archers lost three out of their last four games, including a blowout against rivals Ateneo and getting eliminated by San Beda in the quarterfinals despite a 10-point lead mid fourth, people were saying that La Salle would be lucky to make it to the Final Four. I say DLSU is good enough to make it to the final four then take it from there. I expect around a 10-4 record for the Archers, hopefully good enough for a twice to beat. It is a wide-open UAAP race this year and anything can happen.
UAAP Season 76 Team Previews
|Ateneo Blue Eagles||UST Growling Tigers||NU Bulldogs||De La Salle Green Archers|
|FEU Tamaraws||Adamson Soaring Falcons||UE Red Warriors||UP Fighting Maroons|