The truth is, the University of the Philippines nowadays isn’t known for its basketball program. Gone are the glory days lead by the Tower of Power, when he rallied them to a title in 1986 during his freshman year.
UP has produced Presidents, Chief Justices, Chiefs of Staff, and even Communist and Moro rebel leaders, Beltran wrote, but the school never produced a champion basketball team until the 1986 UP Fighting Maroons.
(This quote reminds me of Harvard producing more Presidents than NBA players, anyways)
The UP Fighting Maroons have consistently placed eighth in each of the last four seasons (which is pretty bad if you like winning), with its last final four berth in Season 60 (16 seasons ago). The harsh reality is that this is where UP is at right now – on the road to recovery. It will take a lot of time, sweat, tears and mind-numbing painful seasons but when it eventually does happen, and UP comes back to contender status, it would’ve been worth the wait.
With eight veteran players playing out their eligibility last season, rebuilding is the new challenge the Fighting Maroons have to face.
|New Additions||Holdovers||Players Leaving|
|Sam Marata||Raul Soyud||Mike Silungan|
|Kyles Lao||JR Gallarza||Jett Manuel (red shirt)|
|Andre Paras||Henry Asilum (shoulder Injury)||Alinko Mbah|
|Andrew Harris||Chris Ball||Mike Gamboa|
|Agustini Amar||Paolo Romero (out for season: ACL injury)||Jelo Montecastro|
|Kyle Suarez||Julius Wong||Robby Weirzba|
|Jason Ligad||Mikee Reyes||Alvin Padilla|
|Paul Desiderio||Martin Pascual||Mark Lopez|
Coach: Ricky Dandan
The Maroons will miss the veteran leadership and experience in players like Mike Silungan and Jelo Montecastro, but they also acquired a lot of very exciting new talent. In the offseason, the Fighting Maroons acquired sharpshooting forward, Sam Marata. Formerly a UPIS standout and La Salle Green Archer, the Fighting Maroons will lean heavily on Marata for his scoring and shooting abilities.
UP has also acquired three exciting new rookies in 2013 MMTLBA MVP Kyles Lao, LSGH standout Andre Paras and 2011 CESAFI juniors MVP Paul Desiderio. (Sidenote: Andre Paras is the son of UP Legend Benjie Paras. Also, he’s the Cherifer guy from the commercials. Very dubious about that shot in 0:25.)
Projected Starting Five
|Power Forward||Chris Ball|
|Small Forward||Sam Marata|
|Shooting Guard||Julius Wong|
|Point Guard||Mikee Reyes|
|Key Bench Players||Kyles Lao, Henri Asilum|
Raul Soyud and Chris Ball will retain their starter status alongside newcomer, Marata and holdovers, Julius Wong and Mikee Reyes. After one season of feeling it out for both Ball and Soyud, they will be more settled into their roles. Look for Ball to continue being a high-energy guy setting screens, grabbing rebounds and playing solid defense. Soyud will continue to be a big part of the offense, primarily shooting jumpers from the perimeter. Marata will be the main guy on offense with his sharpshooting ability. Reyes will be the primary playmaker with Wong also being a threat on offense.
It’s always nice to have good perimeter shooters on a basketball team. Some of the featured shooters on this team are Marata, Asilum and Lao. Since UP doesn’t have an established post presence, they will rely on perimeter shooting for their halfcourt sets.
In recent seasons, UP lacked a natural point guard. After missing two seasons with injury, the Maroons are glad to see Mikee Reyes back in action with his playmaking ability. They also have the feisty Asilum who is a good on-ball defender and can shoot the open three ball. Tough break though for UP, Asilum sustained a shoulder injury which might force him to miss the first round of UAAP Season 76. Kyles Lao and Julius Wong are scoring guards that can provide some offense.
Per Game Averages
UP was last in rebounding, which shows the need for the Maroons to focus on team rebounding because most nights, their frontcourt will be undersized. The frontcourt of Soyud, Ball and Marata have to put more focus into rebounding while the backcourt players also have to help out in order for them to secure the ball.
Lack of High-Percentage Shots
High percentage shots are key in a basketball offense. The UP Fighting Maroons lack a reliable post presence and because of this, UP should continue to push the tempo on offense to get easy baskets. UP was last in the league in Free Throw Attempts, but lead the league in mid-range shot attempts. Not being able to get to the line for free throws will definitely put your team at a disadvantage. Also, leading the league in midrange shots (widely considered inefficient shots compared to within the paint and three pointers) might be a factor as to why the UP team has trouble scoring points. Here’s where guards like Lao, Asilum and Reyes have to use their quickness to attack the basket and draw fouls and not settle for long jumpers.
Youth and Inexperience
Going through a major overhaul in the roster, the team chemistry might not be there yet for the UP team. Also, most of the recruits are fresh graduates from high school that will experience some growing pains before developing into solid contributors.
X-factor: Kyles Lao
Kyles Lao is a left-handed scorer that plays the two-guard position. He can create his own shot, attack the basket and drive for layups but also has a soft touch on his jumpers. It will be interesting to see if his game translates into the college level. Lao can really help this UP team with his scoring prowess, especially with his ability to get to the rim and get easy shots. I see Lao in an off-the-bench role that might also occasionally start because Ricky Dandan likes to tinker with his lineups. Especially with Asilum sidelined with a shoulder injury, Lao will have more opportunities and might even play point guard from time to time. He might also have to compete for the minutes with guard Julius Wong. Even if Lao might not have an immediate impact this year, he’s one of the most important pieces in the rebuilding plan of UP.
Predicted MVP: Sam Marata
Marata is a veteran forward that played for La Salle in years past. He’s a sharpshooter and will be relied on heavily to score points for the UP Fighting Maroons. He might be cast into a similar role as what Silungan was for the past seasons of UP. He’ll be the “go-to-guy” this season. The problem lies on whether he’ll take too much responsibility upon himself to score and start hoisting bad shots.
Right now, UP has talented but very raw players and essentially a very new team. The team still has a lot of holes in its game that needs to be fixed in order to be competitive in the UAAP. They will face a lot of obstacles and trials throughout the season and right now, they are not better than any of the other seven teams.
Expected Record: 1-13, 8th place
(For the loyal UP supporters, if things don’t pan out, there’s always cheerleading to look forward to.)
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|