It’s the end of a decade! From Season 73 to Season 82, a lot of players have come and gone from the UAAP, players that dominated the court, changed the landscape of the league, fired up their teams or simply captured the hearts of fans. In this All-Decade Team series, we at HumbleBola highlight the athletes and coaches who have defined the 2010’s of UAAP basketball for their respective schools.
The Adamson Soaring Falcons All Decade Team
C: Papi Sarr
He was the foundation on which the Soaring Falcons rebuilt themselves toward the end of the decade. Coming in following an 8th place finish, Sarr was a solid post presence for the Falcons in Season 78 when majority of the team’s game plan was to get him the ball in the post. His role changed when Franz Pumaren took over the team no longer the focal point of their offense, Sarr transitioned into becoming a work horse around the paint, showing off his effort and determination in the semifinals of S81, serving as the main rebounder for the Soaring Falcons. Without Sarr’s presence as a post-scoring threat, the Soaring Falcons would have had to find other means to get defenders away from their shooters, making life for them a lot tougher.
F: Rodney Brondial
The picture of hustle and energy every game he was on the floor, Rodney Brondial worked his way from the bench and onto the starting line up of the Falcons in no time, eventually becoming their team captain. Tempting as it was to box him in as a mere role player, Rodney used his rebounding ability and his high energy play to make an impact on the court. A playful soul off the court, his innocent sincerity in willing his team to win made an indelible mark in the hearts of Adamsonians. His energy was also crucial in the 9-10-11 game wherein the Falcons threw quick doubles on Ateneo’s Greg Slaughter to force him into several turnovers and strangle the Eagles’ means of attack. For his passion, Brondial is the subject of a mural along the Adamson Walkway, bearing his Adamsonian pride to all who pass by.
F: Sean Manganti
After introducing himself to the league with a resounding dunk to cap off his debut game against UP, Sean Manganti evolved his game season after season, cementing his legacy among the Falcons of the decade. Aside from late game heroics, multiple times against UP, Sean endeared himself to the hearts of Falcons fans everywhere because of his willingness to use his versatility to find points out of nowhere. Athleticism, court vision and shooting ability allowed Sean to lead the Falcons to a 2nd seed in the Final Four and to being seen as the only legitimate threat to the champion that year. Whenever Sean took to the court, there was an air of confidence around him that seemed to help calm him teammates down. It also helped that he was a willing teammate, willing to step up when and take the tough shots when needed, and willing to give up the ball to let the hot man shine.
G: Alexander Nuyles
This high flying Falcon took the team on his shoulders and elevated them to new heights. During the rise of the Soaring Falcons’ as a basketball program at the start of the decade, Alex Nuyles was the center piece to their ascent. Get to the hoop, stop on a dime, catch and shoot, he could do it all. Under the tutelage of Coach Leo Austria, Nuyles was honed into a scoring machine, one that led the charge in the historic 9-10-11 game that broke the losing streak against Ateneo and confirmed Adamson as a legitimate championship contender for the first time in ages. His coming of age game was in the second round of Season 74 against DLSU where coach Leo trusted him to take the shot with time running out. That trust, one that coach Leo would later on describe as “hard earned” was rewarded with a made shot, and the win. Too bad basketball fans were robbed of a chance to see him realize his full potential as injuries forced him to sit out his final season in the UAAP.
G: Jerick Canada and Lester Alvarez
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat, but it had to be done. Together, Jerick Canada and Lester Alvarez formed one of the best back court duos that the UAAP had ever seen. Coach Leo Austria described the joy of being able to coach them as pure luxury. Both played the same position and were as good as the other but brought to the floor a different skill set. Lester Alvarez was the firepower at point, utilizing his shooting ability to keep the defense guessing. His signature off the dribble three pointer was a nightmare to guard especially when ran off double high screens. Jerick Canada however was a more traditional point guard whose ability to spot open players and create openings was crucial especially in Season 74 when they had their historic run. Canada was also a more defensive-minded player, asking to be subbed in during late game situations where the Falcons needed a stop. They were two halves of a whole, and so both deserve to share a spot on this list.
6th Man: Jericho Cruz
An amazing athlete and player stuck in a bad situation, Jericho Cruz was one of the most individually remarkable players Adamson had this decade that found himself unable to realize his full potential while in the league. Before even coming in to play in the UAAP, Cruz was already making a name for himself wrecking havoc in Team B tournaments. His debut in Season 75 was a rocky one after being forced to shoulder more of the scoring load following a season ending injury to Alex Nuyles early on. Season 76 would see the Falcons depend on his scoring even more, but a series of bad games coupled with internal strife meant Jericho Cruz would leave the UAAP without fanfare. Opting to join the PBA Draft instead of returning for Season 77, Cruz showed that he was indeed a great basketball player, but he did it no longer wearing an Adamson jersey.
It was a toss up between the two coaches who brought Adamson to the Final Four on several occasions and put the Soaring Falcons on the college basketball map.Both coach Leo Austria and coach Franz Pumaren deserve credit and recognition for the work they have done in transforming the Soaring Falcons into a winning team, but the pick has to go to the coach that did it first and did it by staying the course through the bad times. After a taste of success in Season 69 where he led Adamson to the Final Four for the first time, coach Leo took a team that had won only 2 games a season before and began building them into contenders. Season 73 was his breakthrough season when they got back to the Final Four on the back of Mike Galinato. From this season on the Soaring Falcons became known as a force to be reckoned with, breaking more barriers in Season 74. More than his success on the court, coach Leo was known for his compassion toward the athletes he coached, many of whom consider him to be a father figure. To this day many of his former players stay connected to him grateful for the guidance he gave them as basketball players and as human beings.