MANILA, Philipines – Having achieved a ‘’full rebuilding” of the roster, head coach Ricky Dandan expects the University of the Philippines–perennial cellar-dwellers–to win in the UAAP season 76.
The Maroons have only five holdovers from last season’s roster, but will surely get help from other guys returning to the UP camp from injury or other reasons, and some others who have played in other universities but who will join the team in this year’s tournament which reels off on Saturday, June 29.
Six of the 16-man lineup, meanwhile, will be playing in the league for the first time and are about to experience the thrill and pressure of a collegiate game in the UAAP.
“From where we were at the previous year, I don’t want to overwhelm yung mga bata because they’re very young this time around,” said Dandan. “Full rebuilding ginawa namin eh.”
“We’re just going to take it one day at a time. Of course we expect to win and we’ll take it from there,” said Dandan.
Through he doesn’t want to dump all the burdens on his young squad — mostly rookies and sophomores — it’s hard for the Maroons not to look to the rookies for a much needed boost.
Rookies like Kyles Laro and Andre Paras, are actually no stranger to pressure and success having stellar careers in the juniors division, Dandan said they would be given enough room to make an impact in the league.
“[Having these rookies] That’s something that I look forward to. Of course I will rely on my veterans but a lot of the rookies will be in the rotation,” said Dandan.
Other rookies are Andres Desiderio, Andrew Harris, Jason Ligad, and Kyle Suarez, according to the line-ups released by the UAAP.
“It’s going to be tricky but we have a long season ahead, we’ll try to insert them here and there for them to gain experience towards the middle,” Dandan added.
The bulk of the work throughout the season, though, will be spread across Dandan’s veterans, and their pre-season performance provided a sneak peek on who will pretty much carry UP Maroons’ cause.
“My vets will get the bulk of the playing time. During the summer, some of them emerged for us [like] Mikee Reyes and Tata Marata,” said Dandan.
Marata — who played briefly for La Salle in college — has finally gotten the green light to don his high school alma mater’s colors after serving residency. Reyes, meanwhile, is back after sitting out last season due to injury.
Raul Soyud, Chris Ball, Joseph Gallarza, Julius Wong, Martin Pascual and Henry Asilum are also back for another tour of duty for the Maroons.
But rookie or veteran, they have one goal — to seek a better finish for the Maroons than last year’s dismal record of 1-13.