UST, Ateneo remain UAAP basketball title threatsBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
AS ATENEO takes a cautious stock of its title chances next season, University of Santo Tomas sees itself as an even stronger championship contender in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
Talk of another crown had been subdued amid the Blue Eagles’ celebration of their fifth straight championship while giving coach Norman Black a fitting sendoff in a bonfire party over the weekend.
The Tigers, though, see another solid run as the team remains virtually intact next year.
“Lalo kaming titibay kasi nagkaroon ng (We’ll grow even stronger now that we have championship experience) championship experience,” said UST coach Pido Jarencio.
Cameroonian center Karim Abdul, who narrowly missed out on the MVP plum, will return next season along with key cogs Jeric Teng, Aljon Mariano, Kevin Ferrer and Clark Bautista. Only Melo Afuang and Jeric Fortuna will be leaving the team.
The Blue Eagles, though, lost not only Black, who returned to mentor Talk ‘N Text in the PBA, but also several veterans led by Greg Slaughter and back-to-back Finals MVP Nico Salva.
“It’s hard to say. Winning a six-peat is difficult,” said Ateneo team manager Paolo Trillo. “But one thing we can guarantee is the Ateneo team will always give its best. We’ll see how we fare next year.”
“I know Ateneo has some good recruits,” Black said of the Eagles, who are set to unveil shooting guards Chris Newsome and John Lasa next season.
“But they’re going to be hurting a bit as far as the bigs are concerned. They have to go out and recruit some bigs. As far as the smalls and the wingmen, they’re very competitive next year.”
Tribute to Black
Ateneo paid tribute to Black in a bonfire celebration on Saturday night after the American mentor steered the Eagles to a five-year title run—the longest reign in the league in the last 40 years—aside from posting a phenomenal 110-26 win-loss coaching record in eight seasons.
Jarencio, who has mentored the Tigers for the last seven seasons, said he had also pondered on his coaching future.
“I could have exited, but it wasn’t mission accomplished,” said Jarencio. “I’ll see by January if I could come up with a decision.”