Winning changes everything, even for UP
Oh, how times have changed in University of the Philippines.
Cellar dwellers for the better part of the past two decades, the Fighting Maroons are no longer pushovers as they are slowly establishing themselves as legitimate Final Four contenders in UAAP Season 79.
“Dati, halos pinamimigay na namin yung tickets namin pero hindi pa rin kami pinapanood,” said guard Paul Desiderio. “Ngayon, sobrang dami na nung fans.”
Winning sure fixes a lot, but that wouldn’t have been possible if not for coach Bo Perasol instilling a new system and a fresh culture in Diliman. And this season, the Maroons are reaping the rewards with the team improving to 5-8, already their best since 2005.
The outpouring support has been unbelievable for the team with the students and alumni coming in troves at Filoil Flying V Centre on Sunday to watch UP edge University of Santo Tomas, 74-69.
“Grabe yung support,” said Jett Manuel, one of the leaders of the team.
“Coming in to the game, I saw a line for tickets. The support that the UP community is bringing in, that’s something I want to bring in and to feel before I leave, and I hope that they keep on supporting us because we play so much better with them. We want to give something back to them for supporting us through wins or losses.”
And that’s exactly what Perasol wanted from the get-go, forming a strong bond with the team and its boisterous community through winning, something which hasn’t been evident for the past two decades.
“More than anything else, what brought this is that we’re able to generate some excitement in the UP community. That’s the best thing to have happened to us this season,” Perasol said.
“Importante kasi na if we have a program like ours, everybody has to feel that they belong. Ang laki kasi ng epekto kasi minsan, iniisip mo na pinagtatawanan lang tayo at di naman tayo pinupuntahan ng tao. But when you see them supporting you, nakakapagbigay yun ng ibang confidence sa players.”
It also bodes well with the legacy Manuel, the squad’s graduating team captain, would like to leave.
“My goal from the very beginning was to jumpstart the program somehow by winning more games, getting people interested to come to UP because there’s a future here, and that’s something I can give back. Yung culture na it takes everyone to win, everyone has to buy in to the system, everyone has to believe in the coach, everyone has to believe in each other and listen to their leaders, we’re already seeing it,” he said.
“I’m happy na in leaving, I feel like I’m partly responsible for bringing that to the community, because it’s all about giving back din.”
Whether or not UP ends its Final Four drought, which dates back to 1997, Perasol can hold his head high knowing he has already set the team at the right path.
“Yun naman ang goal natin talaga, na gusto namin na yung programa ng UP, mas magiging an entity to reckon with for the future,” he said. “Before, parang di pinapansin eh, pero ngayon, at least, yung program nagkakaroon na ng direksyon.”
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