UE Warriors climb from cellar to topBy Cedelf P. Tupas |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Coach Boycie Zamar of newly minted Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup champion University of the East recalled days when no one wanted to play against his Warriors for tune-up matches, perhaps because, in his opinion, they only finished seventh in the UAAP last season.
These days, the Warriors are making heads turn as they quickly installed themselves as favorites for the coming UAAP wars with their victory in the preseason tournament.
UE stunned Adamson, University of Santo Tomas and National University on its way to a first title in the tournament since 2008, when the team was still coached by Dindo Pumaren.
“We couldn’t find any team to play against us,” said Zamar in Filipino, after the Warriors’ championship-clinching win Wednesday night. “We just played in so many leagues, even the smaller ones just to toughen up. Slowly but surely, the winning mentality was developed.”
Zamar, on his second tour of duty for UE after coaching the Warriors in the early 2000s when the team was bannered by now PBA star James Yap, refused to be carried away by the Warriors’ victories, saying what matters will be their performance in the coming season.
“If you compare what we achieved to Latin honors, we only got cum laude. It’s in the UAAP, where we will try to achieve magna cum laude or summa cum laude,” said Zamar.
Using a scintillating effort in the final period, the inspired Warriors pummeled the Bulldogs, 81-68, in the finals, which also saw the end of the 2012 champions’ 21-game winning streak.
Playing an important role in the Warriors’ run was guard Roi Sumang, who was named as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The 5-foot-9 guard was quick to deflect credit, saying the Warriors have actually improved in almost all areas of their game.
“We’re not a one-man team,” said Sumang. “We had other players stepping up in this tournament. But we still have a long way to go if we want to be successful in the UAAP.”
The Warriors’ big man woes that have hounded them in season past seemed to have been addressed with the inclusion of Sierra Leone-born center Charles Mammie, who is developing into a dominant force, while Cris Javier, Ralf Olivarez and Lord Casajeros are also emerging as reliable scorers.
“This is just a pre-season but this is a big factor because we came from a seventh place finish in the UAAP,” said Zamar.