‘Tough’ Huang emerges as key cog for Ayo’s Tigers
Zachary Huang went from being a seldom-used role player under Boy Sablan to a vital component of Aldin Ayo’s system with University of Santo Tomas.
The 6-foot-3 forward was a predator on the loose at the start of the second round of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament when he led the Growling Tigers in their 78-70 win over Far Eastern University Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Huang put up a career-high 20 points while pulling down six rebounds in a victory that he considered as a statement game for the Growling Tigers.
“We’re extra motivated because of coach Aldin and because last season we didn’t win one game against FEU so this one is a statement from us,” said Huang in Filipino.
The Growling Tigers were a miserable bunch in Season 80 when they lost 13 straight games before winning the final one against University of the East, 88-85.
It was in that season that the fourth-year Huang played a shade under 10 minutes a game and averaged just 3.1 points.
Under Ayo, Huang has flourished and has averaged 9.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.
“You have to see him how he works in practice because what he shows in the games doesn’t compare to what he does when we’re in UST,” said Ayo, whose team improved to 4-4 after winning its third straight game, in Filipino.
“Zach is one of the veterans but he’s one of the players that will give it his all in practice,” added Ayo. “He’s tough mentally and physically, and he just wants to play.”
Huang credited Ayo for revitalizing his game with the Tigers.
“I’m just following what coach tells me to do,” said Huang. “If I follow his game plan, then good things will happen.”