When Aldin Ayo brought his Mayhem defense to UST, a whirlwind was expected to impact the basketball future of the Growling Tigers, for better or for worse.  

In his maiden year as head coach, Aldin Ayo’s Tigers did bring some changes.  The patented on-and-off full court pressure was expectedly present and was their tendency to shoot plenty of threes.  Combine their trigger-happy offense with a perpetually gambling defense, UST finished Season 81 being the league’s leader in 3-point attempts with 426 and draining only 28 percent.  

Risk, however, also reared its ugly head. UST allowed a tournament-high 50.5 percent from the field while also yielding the most number of uncontested shots at 61.   The result, tipping the finish line tape with 5-9 card, four more wins than the previous season. It wasn’t a Final Four finish, but it was more respectable compared to the Boy Sablan years.

From endless seasons of being cellar tenants, at certain points it had seemed endless. But now, perhaps, UST is really going somewhere after all.  

Or are they?

Some Talking Points

Polarizing Pre-Season

Despite the entry of two super rookies, a new big, and a foreign student athlete, the results were fairly the same.  Coach Ayo’s dependency on shooting guards shooting the lights out to win games is a certain carryover from last season.  Finishing with average to okay results in Fil-Oil and the NBA 5v5 shows that everything is still work-in-progress.  

Ayo’s winning model during his title run with Letran has yet to manifest its fit in a more competitive UAAP landscape.  

Is Mayhem still the way to go?

During the pre-season tournaments, UST’s opponents would simply use quick passes to break the press that would often lead to uncontested lay-ups.  Perhaps it is time to admit, Mayhem was a defensive system that has seen better days.  

When you see the stat line that supports poor defense such as most uncontested shots, highest field goal clip, and most fastbreak points by their opponents, perhaps it is time to review that defense again.   

Also, the Growling Tigers continue to rely heavily on shots from beyond the arc.  In the PBA D-League, UST fired more triples than any team with 40 attempts per game.  Perhaps Ayo is getting ready early for the position-less basketball future created by the GSW dynasty in the NBA. The question is though, can it all still work for winning basketball? 

Notable Additions

Mark Nonoy 

Fast, fearless and a freak of nature.  Mark Nonoy breaking the sound barrier in the UAAP Juniors hardwood has made the world known that the Growling Tigers have their point guard of the future.  At 18 and a one and done with the UST High, Nonoy tallied 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.6 steals in his only year.  

Migrating immediately to the seniors’ squad, Nonoy fanned the warning flames by impressing in the PBA D-League with his quick first step, daredevil drives and accurate three point shot; all three attributes that fit in Coach Ayo’s system.  

Rhenz Abando 

Another rookie about to set the league on fire, Abando’s summer debut as a Growling Tiger was nothing but spectacular.  Abando’s eye-popping vertical proved that he can be a defensive highlight reel when he swatted Kobe Paras’ alley-oop attempt plus denying Thirdy Ravena a number of times.  

Equally impressive was Abando’s incredible all-around offensive game where drained the 3 with his smooth stroke as well as finish effectively inside.  In his four games in the PBA D-League, Abando scored 15.8 ppg while tallying efficient percentages of 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep, and grabbed 4.8 rebounds per game.

Soulemane Chabi Yo

Being undersized did not deter UST from getting Chabi Yo but he’s facing different monsters now in the UAAP.  Up against beanpoles like Angelo Kouame during the preseason, the post was not a good place for Chabi Yo as he was used more in the high post.  

Dave Ando

The replacement for Germy Mahinay has proven to hustle for rebounds and has a neat spot up mid-range jumper.  But if you’re looking for a legit slotman with great footwork, Ando has been underwhelming.  

Key Losses

Steve Akomo 

Akomo’s collegiate career trajectory did not go as expected and will leave UST after playing just four games in Season 81. The poor fit into Coach Ayo’s system was always a ticket to ride the bench.  

Germy Mahinay

After one season, Mahinay crossed Espana and made his way to join the National U Bulldogs.  Although his stat line of 4.5 points per game and 5.7 rebounds were average, it is his intangibles that will be missed. 

Marvin Lee

Either you will love this news or cry, Marvin Lee has seen the last of his playing days in UST.  He embraced the ideology of firing without a conscience as his shots represented a third of the team’s total three-point attempts, while making 31.2 percent of these.  The Tiger nation will miss the HOT Marvin, the one that can carry a team to victory. The erratic shooting version of Marvin Lee? Good riddance.  

Sensational rookies plus the return of Captain CJ Cansino will be the fire that churns the UST attack.  Abando and Nonoy are not just good rookies, they can be immediately relevant and can help push the Tigers back into contention.

The biggest question remains with the ability of the UST coaching staff to mesh these talents into one cohesive machine that, when done right, can even challenge the best of the season.  

PREDICTION:  UST WILL GAIN A TIE FOR 4TH SPOT.