UAAP Season 78 Preview: La Salle to parade ‘very young’ roster
Head coach: Juno Sauler
Last season: 10-4 (Third)
Key losses: Arnold Van Opstal, Almond Vosotros, Norbert Torres
Key returnees: Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Thomas Torres
Key additions: Andrei Caracut
De La Salle University’s success in the 78th UAAP Season will depend much on the leadership of its three veteran players in Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins and Thomas Torres.
Going into the new season, the Green Archers will be fielding in a “very young team” with nine rookies led by sought-after recruit Andrei Caracut and three sophomores in Abu Tratter, Prince Rivero and Julian Sargent.
“Even if we’re rookie-laden, we have like Thomas, Jeron and Jason being there as the leaders of the team,” La Salle head coach Juno Sauler told reporters. “They’ve been showing great leadership so far and being good examples to the younger ones.”
“We’re just hoping that the rookies can mature and play like veterans during the season,” Sauler said.
Among the rookies, much of the attention will be on Caracut, a standout for the San Beda Red Cubs and Philippine Youth team before deciding to take his talents to Taft.
But it’s not only Caracut that must show up and contribute right away for the Archers with Sauler also expecting his other newcomers to help in their own ways.
“All of the rookies I’m sure they‘re raring to prove themselves that they can play in the college level so they’re all excited,” Sauler said. “What I like in them is they’re very disciplined, their willingness to learn, their eagerness to prove something. It’s all similar.”
“Hopefully when the season starts all we’ll be able to show what they’re capable of doing,” he added.
Sauler said he’s seen a big improvement from his three veterans especially from Teng, who led La Salle to the championship in Season 76, and the versatile power forward Perkins.
“Jeron, his all around game, actually, has been improving. The basic fundamentals in basketball even his jump shots, different areas on the court, his passing ability, the way he reads the game, the situation, the defense has also improved,” Sauler noticed.
“Jason, I know he’s been a very good rebounder for us the past two seasons now he’s also improved his outside shooting we allow him to take the 3-point shot even in transition if he’s wide open he’s been very consistent at that and we’ve seen him working at that even in practice.”
La Salle’s bid this year took a big hit after its prized recruit Ben Mbala was slapped with a one-year ban after being caught playing in a provincial tournament last December.
Its starting center Arnold Van Opstal also opted to forgo his final season citing nagging injuries while a couple of its other starters Norbert Torres and Almond Vosotros have graduated and are already in the pros.
“We can’t do anything about that,” Sauler said on Mbala’s suspension. “We have no control over that but what we have control over is our attitude going into the season.”
And while Far Eastern University has embraced its tag as this season’s top contender, Sauler feels that his team shouldn’t just focus on trying to beat the Tamaraws.
“All the teams are the teams to beat. What’s important is you don’t see a team that’s strong and weak, you see every team the same.”
La Salle takes on defending champion National University in its opening game on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.