Coming off a sweet victory in the FilOil Flying V preseason tournament, the UE Red Warriors are pumped up to redeem their lackluster UAAP Season 75 performance, finishing only in the seventh place with a 3-11 record.
This team had to endure several disappointing and devastating games. They had to keep on playing even though their efforts were not succeeding. Coming up short year after year after year (their last Final Four appearance was in Season 72, where they lost the Finals to the Ateneo Blue Eagles), this team is growing impatient. Finally, this year is their year. The rebuilding team is ready to take on Season 76 with the roaring determination to bring home the prized championship trophy.
So what change propelled the UE Red Warriors from a rebuilding team to a serious final four contender?
Let’s start with the additions and subtractions to their roster. Using the roster here as a basis for their Season 76 roster:
|Erwin Duran||Adrian Santos||Gino Jumao-as|
|Gene Belleza||Chris Javier||Charles Mammie|
|Ian Valdez||Dan Alberto||Leo Guion|
|Roy Villarias||Ivan Hernandez||Ralf Olivarez|
|John Mena||Jairold Flores|
|Samuel Razon||JR Sumido|
|Pedrito Galanza, Jr.|
|RR de Leon|
|Lord Howier Casajeros|
|Luis Adrian Pujante|
Disclaimer: This list may or may not be accurate. For any corrections, just let me know in the comments. Thanks!
UE lost their good perimeter shooter in Gene Belleza – remember that second round game against Ateneo, when Belleza put up 28 points (!!), 15 of which came from beyond the arc. They also bid farewell to their team captain, Erwin Duran, who made sure that UE’s morale was high even after their heartbreaking losses last season.
But now, they have a 6’8″ center in Charles Mammie, a shooter in Gino Jumao-as and possible bench support from Leo Guion and Ralf Olivarez. Hopefully, the void Belleza left will be filled in by Gino Jumao-as, the former San Sebastian Staglets’ star, who just finished his one-year residency period and JR Sumido. We can expect Jumao-as to be a target of Sumang’s crafty assists.
1. Roi Sumang
This 5’8″ point guard is definitely responsible for keeping the UE Red Warriors’ game together. On average, he dished out 18.4 points, 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals in the UAAP Season 75. He was second best in assists (trailed now-graduate Jeric Fortuna), third best in points scored and tied at third best (together with Terrence Romeo and Alvin Padilla) in steals. #Woah. The fact that Ateneo coach Bo Perasol said they prepared a special defensive strategy just to contain him is an indication of the damage that this guard can do.
What I love about Sumang is the fact that he includes every player in the offense; he has this “pass-first” attitude but when the Warriors need him to score, he delivers. Not just delivers, but makes flashy-acrobatic-circus-like-shots delivers. Surround him with good shooters and he’ll definitely make them even better. He knows when to burst out driving towards the basket, when to take it slow and regroup and when to take it upon himself to deal the damage.
However, handling the ball waaaay longer than anyone else in your team also has its drawbacks. Sumang registered an average of 3.4 turnovers per game, claiming the second worst spot next to Bobby Ray Parks. It doesn’t help the fact that UE, as a team, also turns the ball over way too much. If he can work to even make better his ball handling and court awareness, he’ll definitely be a strong force to reckon with.
2. New head coach Boyzie Zamar
Looking back at the first round of Season 75, the Cordinera-led Warriors were, how do I put it… a mess. Offensively, they weren’t finishing their shots, they had bad rotations causing a lot of fouls (and eventually, charity points for their opponents) and it was not hard to think that they forgot that basketball was a team sport. Defensively, no one was rebounding well and when they do try to rebound, it was sloppy and weak. Of course, no one should pin this all on the coach but when your team is not playing as a team, it’s the coach’s job to put some sense back into his boys and glue them back together.
Enter Coach Boyzie Zamar. In the second round (when Coach Boyzie came in), the Red Warriors played faster, as indicated by an increase of 3.7 in their pace from 78.3, which means they were better during fastbreaks and transitions. Comparing the team’s ORTG (Offensive Rating, or their points produced per 100 possessions) during the first round and the second round, it increased from 76.4 to 88.1 – that’s an increase of 11.7! Even though an ORTG of 88.1 isn’t really amazing (it only pushed their average ORTG for the season to 82.4, which is 4.2 points below the league average), but improving from worst to not so good is still a big jump for this team. In fact, in the FilOil tournament, UE’s ORTG was 106.6 which tops (!!!) the league. The new line-up is definitely clicking well – Sumang dishing assists to Mammie who’s manning the paint, isolating Sumido/Jumao-as for a trey and more.
In a nutshell, they were more efficient, more composed and played more as a team.
3. Charles Mammie
Finally! The inside presence that the Red Warriors needed. Mammie completed the residency requirement and will be suiting up for the UE Red Warriors this season. The 6’8″ Sierra Leone native averaged 14.2 points/4.3 offensive boards/8.1 defensive boards per game in the preseason.
Rebounding has been a consistent issue during Season 75. They were always out-rebounded and boxed out by their opponents. Adi Santos was athletic enough and Chris Javier was strong enough to get rebounds for UE but when the competition presses harder, the more UE gets pushed over. Offensively, the Red Warriors had troubles finishing their shots at the rim. Last season, they only finished 44% of the shots they took at the rim, which was the worst in the league. *cringe* There were a lot of missed lay-ups and missed opportunities inside the paint.
With the addition of Mammie, we can expect the Red Warriors to finally get that inside support that they needed. We can expect more points coming in from the post and definitely more boards for the Warriors. The defense will also loosen up on Sumang to stop Mammie, effectively creating more space for Sumang to make the court his playground.
One thing Mammie needs to work on though is his free throws. Being a big man, he’ll definitely draw fouls and will be seeing trips to the line often. He needs to capitalize on this and produce points for the team.
UE registered an average of 16.7 turnovers per game, second worst next to NU Bulldogs. Watching the Red Warriors play last Season 75, you’ll see a lot fumbling balls, weak rebounds that allowed the opponents to steal the ball, passes that weren’t received well, etc. They need to step up their game in terms of handling the ball.
2. Bench play
The starters of UE have almost always performed. We can see that emphasized in the second round game with Ateneo where we saw the starters putting up 76 of the 79 points of the team; that’s 96.2%! On average, the starters have scored 76.5% of all of UE’s points. Sure, it’s great that the starters can step up and score this much for the team but starters get tired and it’s up to the bench to fill in these gaps. With a deeper bench this season, we should be able to expect more points off the bench.
I’ll have to say Roi Sumang. His talent in orchestrating the UE offense and including everyone in it will definitely go a long way for the Warriors. Now that he has a cast of players to convert his assists to points, we can expect him to get more crafty in handling the ball and putting his chess pieces where they should be before choosing the player for the basket, or maybe finishing it himself. We saw that in the preseason wherein this athletic point guard was crowned the MVP. Even the former “the point guard” Jai Reyes admits he’s the best point guard, the way he’s playing right now.
The X-Factor for me will be the perimeter shooting in JR Sumido and Gino Jumao-as. With Belleza out, the task is left to Sumido to put up points in the perimeter. We saw an inconsistent, on/off game from Sumido last season; he only shot 33.1% from the field and 19.0% beyond the arc. He did improve in the preseason (38.0% FG% / 35.9% 3PT%) which sheds some light on the game he’ll be bringing to the UAAP. If Jumao-as proves to be a consistent producer for UE, then the team will have more players to extract points from – something that the team needs now that Belleza is out.
They already have someone to produce from the paint consistently so having someone who can shoot in the perimeter will make UE harder to defend.
With so many new talents for UE, I think we can all agree that the team will make a good run for a comeback this season. I’ll go ahead and say that if all their talents play as their hype expects them to, UE can finish the eliminations round with around a 9-5 win-loss record and a final four appearance. These boys already know how to play and connect with each other. What they need is consistency from their key players and support from the bench. Season 76 could be anyone’s game, the playing field is even and it’s high time the Red Warriors relive their most glorious days.
UAAP Season 76 Team Previews
|Ateneo Blue Eagles||UST Growling Tigers||NU Bulldogs||De La Salle Green Archers|
|FEU Tamaraws||Adamson Soaring Falcons||UE Red Warriors||UP Fighting Maroons|