UAAP: Aldin Ayo believes talent, crowd will make UST even better
MANILA, Philippines–Many people believed the only way University of Santo Tomas would make a mark in the current UAAP season would be on the calendars of opposing teams—the Tigers were supposed to be a favorite stop of schools needing a win.
So it was quite a surprise that UST notched back-to-back wins early in the season.
But not to Aldin Ayo.
“This team has a lot of fight in it,” the former UST coach said in Filipino late Saturday evening on the heels of the Tigers’ 79-72 victory over Adamson at Mall of Asia Arena.
In fact, Ayo, who spoke to a few UST alumni via Zoom, believes the Tigers haven’t flashed their meanest form yet.
“They are underdogs but they will get better as the season progresses,” he said.
He is counting on two things to make that happen: The young core that was part of the system he put in place at UST before an ill-advised training camp nuked his program and the crowd returning to the venue starting Tuesday.
“When the crowd comes back, that will give us an edge,” Ayo said. “Nobody can beat our crowd, the support of our community. When the community is there cheering, the players will really fight to the end.”
Ayo kicked off an ambitious program in 2018 and reached the finals in 2019, where the Tigers were waylaid by an unbeatable Ateneo squad. But after a training camp in Sorsogon amid a pandemic lockdown, Ayo was suspended indefinitely by the UAAP. The champion tactician is still holding out hope that he can be reinstated immediately so he can help fulfill the current team’s potential.
And what is the ceiling for these Tigers?
“They may be young but with proper guidance, they can compete for a Final Four slot,” said Ayo, who gives advice to current coach Jinino Manansala whenever he can.
Ayo mentioned the likes of Joshua Fontanilla, Paul Manalang, Brian Santos, Ian Herrera and Nic Habanero as among those who could grow into a competitive core with a bright and exciting future.
“They just need to be developed and I hope I will be given the chance to do that,” he said.