We are still in the preseason, where teams are integrating new players, new coaches are trying to instill their philosophies onto their players, and fans are looking for a glimpse of what’s to come.
For the De La Salle University Green Archers though, they’re trying to do the first two, yes, but they’re also showing everyone just how dominant they can be in the upcoming UAAP season.
Last season, La Salle fell short of the Final Four, and were a major disappointment. So, how did they all of a sudden transform into a juggernaut this summer? The answer lies in two new additions to the team: center Ben Mbala, and head coach Aldin Ayo.
After sitting out an extended residency period, Mbala will finally get to strut his stuff in the UAAP. You can tell how hyped he is by how dominant he’s been playing in the preseason, with averages of 24 points and 16 rebounds. While he has been nearly unstoppable in the low block, his presence has also helped his teammates get wide-open looks due to the double-teams he attracts. That was something DLSU sorely lacked last season.
Another major difference is the addition of Ayo to fill the head coach’s seat. Former mentor Juno Sauler tendered his resignation after three seasons and one championship in charge of the team. Initially, names like assistant coach Siot Tanquingcen and Franz Pumaren were bandied about, but DLSU management shocked everyone when they reached an agreement with Ayo, the Letran Knights’ mentor, shortly after steering the team to an NCAA title in his first and only stint with the team.
So far, Aldin Ayo looks like the perfect guy for the Green Archers. Since taking over late last year, he has been able to instill his defensive philosophy, while installing a fast-paced offense for La Salle. During DLSU’s disappointing UAAP Season 78, they ranked last in steals (2.4 spg) and blocks (1.7 bpg), while finishing sixth in forced turnovers, with 16.9 a game. In the ongoing FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup, Ayo’s “mayhem” press has produced averages of 26 forced turnovers, to go with 7.4 steals and 3.8 blocks per game in their first five contests. Their offense has gotten quite the boost as well. They’re norming a tournament-best 96 points per outing, while going to the line 36 times a game.
While it’s still the preseason and all other teams have enough time to find their game, DLSU may have already raised the standards ahead of the upcoming UAAP season. What’s even scarier is the possibility that this DLSU team still has room to grow too, and that we haven’t seen just what this squad is fully capable of.