As if losing eight players from last year’s lineup is not brutal enough, the University of the East Red Warriors suffered another blow as they will be missing the services of Dan Alberto. Just three weeks before Season 78 commences, UAAP declared Alberto, who led the league in offensive rating with 112.8 points per 100 possessions last season, ineligible as he already maxed out his playing years.
This has been the sad tale of the Red Warriors’ Season 78 campaign, even if it has not officially started. From a team that was built to be a force majeure this season, it became like a heavily punctured tire due to the expected and unexpected departures of its key players. And now, they are trying to pick up the pieces.
The Roster in A Nutshell
Who’s In, Who’s Out?
The team was not supposed to look this way. Roi Sumang, the team’s proverbial superstar, should have been donning still those red and white jerseys, instead of the green and black ones. Moustapha Arafat should have been pestering the opponents for years to come. Gino Jumao-as should have been leading the team’s second unit. By this time, we already know what happened. These vital cogs, along with the graduating Charles Mammie, Bong Galanza and Mark Olayon, almost booked a Final Four ticket for the Red Warriors last season. But the National University Bulldogs had other plans.
Given the nucleus of UE’s squad this season, matching their nine-win total in Season 77 would be a tall order. Without a doubt, the lack of experience in this team plays a huge part in this. Among the seven holdovers from last year’s squad, only Chris Javier, Paul Varilla, and Ronnie De Leon averaged at least 10 minutes of playing time per game last season. If UE wants to create some noise this year, then these guys have to step up by leaps and bounds.
Season 78 is not a lost cause yet for the Red Warriors. If there is one silver lining in their campaign this year, it has to be the entrance of their highly touted recruits. Topbilling the newbies are guards Fran Yu and Philip Manalang who are expected to be thrown into the UAAP fire right away. They should be feeling great on being recruited by UE as the school has produced some of the finest guards in Philippine basketball.
Same Old Brand New System
While the core of the UE’s squad have been altered heavily, the coaching staff has remained intact. And with coach Derrick Pumaren still at the helm, expect UE still to play that fast paced, high octane action as if they are tireless kids. Last season, they averaged a league-high 83.8 possessions per game. They were able to do that as they utilized a solid 11-man rotation. It would be interesting to see how will Pumaren tweak his system, now that the team’s depth is not at par to last year’s.
Also, expect the Red Warriors to force a lot of turnovers. UE forced their opponents to register an astronomical turnover rate of 24.9% last season. Their Pumaren-patented fullcourt pressure was just suffocating. But without defensive-minded guys like Arafat, who was a one-man fullcourt press, and Jumao-as, who annoyed his matchups with his peskiness, it will be difficult to record the same feat.