UST Growling Tigers have 400 reasons to do wellBy Denison Rey Dalupang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA—If there’s one reason the UST GrowlingTigers want to roar loudly in Season 74 of the UAAP, it’s because the school is celebrating its quadricentennial anniversary.
And for a student population thirsting for an end to a title drought, the thought of shaking off last year’s bitter 4-10 stint—the worst showing by the Tigers since their Cinderella finish in 2006—would be enough cause for celebration.
The Tigers, normally perennial contenders in the playoffs, did find something to build on from last year’s performance, showing it had somehow learned the art of outside shooting to surprise several opponents.
Eventually, the novelty wore off and the gaping hole in the middle was too tough to conceal when it mattered most.
But a bench facelift this season could change all that, even if UST will be parading a rookie-laden roster following a revamp of the usual line of stringers.
The Tigers sought to bolster their flimsy frontline and got what they wanted when their 6-foot-6 Cameroonian acquisition Karim Abdul was cleared to play.
“He improves on a daily basis and is very active,” said Jarencio of Abdul. “He’s the missing link to the squad.”
Aside from Abdul, who was reeled in from Sta. Clara International Academy, the Tigers will be gaining help from seven other rookies.
On top of this is the 6-4 former RP Youth gunner Kevin Ferrer, who should, at the least, garner a loyalty award from his school. The offensively-talented Ferrer turned a deaf ear to overtures from other schools and went from UST High to the Tigers’ senior team.
He and Abdul are expected to immediately mesh with gusty Chris Camus and marksman Jeric Teng to form a solid core.
“(Ferrer) will get his minutes, that I’m sure of. He will definitely be a key addition to our team for he can score and at the same time, guard bigger opponents,” said Teng. “But he really needs to beef-up and mature quickly in order for us to maximize his potential.”
The Tigers also landed another juniors MVP in ex-Jose Rizal University high school hotshot Louie Vigil, who will most likely fortify the Santo Tomas defense.
Jamil Sheriff, a prized recruit from Canada, will be asked to provide aid as back-up to veteran Jeric Fortuna.
“He’s a rare find,” noted Jarencio. “He will be a good fit in our string of point guards.”
UST faces the problem of losing shooter Clark Bautista, who will miss this season due to academic issues and will be missing action throughout the season.
“Clark is a shooter—you can never disregard that,” said Jarencio. “His absence will be a big loss, but we see it as a blessing in disguise. His vacancy will be filled by our rookies—we’re blessed with Kevin and Louie.”
“It’s going to be hard. We usually have defenders split whenever we’re on the floor at the same time. But now, I guess I’d be getting more defensive pressure,” said Fortuna.
How the Tigers fare without Bautista, one of the primary scorers for the Tigers averaging 11.14 ppg, will be a recurring theme for UST as it hopes to celebrate its 400th year one way or the other.