The De La Salle Green Archers are out for redemption as their last season’s campaign ended prematurely by a heartbreak with Mac Belo‘s game and series-winning three-pointer at the buzzer that also spoiled their chance to defend their title. Another heartbreak suffered by the Green Archers in the offseason as prized recruit Ben Mbala was ruled ineligible to play this season because of violation of rules for players undergoing residency. Mbala was supposed to be DLSU’s beast in the middle this season, but will have to wait for another. Arnold Van Opstal was also ruled out this season as he had an off season injury that will keep him out of action for 4-6 months.
Back in the sideline to lead the Green Archers is third year head coach Juno Sauler who has steered the team to two Final Four appearances and a championship. There will only be six holdovers from last season, including three from the Season 76 champion team – Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, and Thomas Torres. The rest of the squad will be comprised of nine rookies, either from DLSU’s Team B or from high school, which makes the Green Archers a very young team.
La Salle may have lost a lot of players, but they won’t be lacking in star power. Back to lead the team are Teng and Perkins, probably La Salle’s two best players for the past two seasons. Teng averaged an MVP-like stats of 17.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 3.8 APG last season, while Perkins tallied 10.4 PPG and 10.1 RPG. They also addressed a weakness in perimeter shooting with the addition of Jollo Go and Andrei Caracut. While we still don’t have the exact numbers to say that they can help the team with their outside shot, both players were recruited because of their fearlessness on the offensive end. We can only find out as the season progress as why these two were highly recruited. La Salle also won’t be lacking on talent despite only having six players on board from last season. All of them were solid contributors last season, Along with Teng and Perkins, the other four holdovers (Thomas Torres, Prince Rivero, Julian Sargent and Abu Tratter) played significant minutes last season and could easily contribute a lot this season. A lot of this year’s rookie batch are also expected to play significant minutes, including Caracut, Go, and Torralba.
The Green Archers lost a lot of size, and the guy expected to fill those gap will have to wait another season. Last season, they had the luxury of going with a two-big lineup with Norbert Torres and AVO. Now, they might have to rely have on Abu Tratter who was their third-string bigman last season. They may go with a smaller frontcourt with Rivero and Perkins, but might have to give up a lot, especially on the defensive end (against guys like Alfred Aroga and Karim Abdul).
They have nine rookies on board, which makes inexperience a big weakness for this team. Some of them may be talented enough to contribute right away, but it may take awhile for them to adjust in a bigger stage, especially when it comes to the physicality and the huge crowd at hand.
The King Archer has had a great college career — winning a UAAP championship, taking the Rookie of the Year honors, bagging a Finals MVP plum, and being selected to the Mythical 5 twice in just three seasons. But you know that he is not yet satisfied with his accomplishments and he has more motivation this season to improve his game and become a better leader for his team. From his first season in the UAAP, he has improved his game by leaps and bounds. He has added a facet of his game each season, from becoming a better passer, a better shooter and to a better leader. But he can still improve a lot and add another dimension to his game. He can still improve, especially with his defense and his outside shot. He is now the longest tenured player on the team (alongside Thomas Torres), which makes him the undisputed leader.
Players To Look Out For
The former NCAA Juniors MVP showed us a lot of promise during his rookie year with the Green Archers. He was a reliable scorer and rebounder for La Salle’s second unit. He showed a lot improvement during the summer, being part of the Gilas Cadet pool that won the gold in the recent SEA games. He also showed significant improvement in the preseason, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds for DLSU in the Filoil Flying-V Cup. He will be counted on for big minutes this season, and we expect a big contribution from him.
Andrei Caracut leads La Salle’s heralded rookie batch. He showed us in high school that he is a winner, bagging multiple titles for the San Beda Red Cubs, highlighted by a monster game of 30 points and 9 rebounds in Game Three of the 2014 NCAA Juniors Finals, and winning Finals MVP in the process. He also showed a glimpse of what he can do in the Seniors division during the preseason. He averaged a team-high 15 points in the Filoil Flying-V Cup, helping the Green Archers to a runner-up finish. He is expected to be a key contributor for La Salle this season, especially with his outside shot.
Key Offseason Movement
A key offseason move La Salle did over the summer was hiring former PBA champion coach Siot Tanquingcen as an assistant coach. Coach Siot has won multiple championships with San Miguel and Ginebra as a long time assistant and head coach. He has been in the big league for more than a decade, and will help a lot in La Salle’s preparation and strategy this season.
The DLSU Green Archers are loaded with talent, despite having only six holdovers and having nine neophytes on board. But the Green Archers still have their go-to-guy in Jeron Teng, solid playmaker Thomas Torres, and a great inside presence in Jason Perkins. They hope that the rookies can also help out immediately. A fourth straight Final Four appearance is within their reach. But a shot at the title may be a distant idea for now, unless the team gels faster than expected.