Naascu opens 12th season minus UM
THE LEAGUE which built its popularity around the dominating presence of powerhouse University of Manila will have to make do without it when the 12th season of the National Athletics Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (Naascu) gets going today with its basketball tournament at the Makati Coliseum.
Naascu president Dr. Ernest Jay Adalem of St. Clare College said UM took a leave of absence from the league without giving any reason for it.
“We are saddened by it (UM leaving) but we have to move on and look at the brighter side of things,” said Adalem. “One way to look at it is to know that the league will be more balanced with all the eight teams having equal chances of winning this season.”
Last year’s runner-up and 2007 champion STI will break the ice in the 12 noon match against St. Clare. New Era faces City University of Pasay at 1:30 p.m., Trace College of Laguna battles Centro Escolar at 3 o’clock while Fatima squares off with AMA Computer at 4:30 p.m.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios will be the keynote speaker during the opening rites which begin at 9 a.m.
The Hawks, under the guidance of former UM president, lawyer Ernesto delos Santos, won seven titles in the league’s past 11 seasons, including five straight from 2001 to 2005.
That dynasty was highlighted by 82 straight wins under coach Loreto Tolentino which was an all-time high in collegiate basketball in the country.
Without the Hawks, the league will be a wide open race with former champions STI and AMA Computer as top contenders along with New Era, St. Clare and Centro Escolar.
After that five consecutive titles, UM underwent rebuilding which allowed AMA, STI and San Sebastian College-Recoletos of Cavite to lord it over for the next four seasons. SSC-R won in 2008 and 2009 but has since taken a leave as well.
The Hawks returned to prominence in 2010 by beating STI for the title then duplicated that feat last year, raising speculations of yet another dynastic rule by the Sampaloc-based school.
“But all good things must come to an end,” said Adalem. “We are not closing the door on anybody and we would welcome them once they are ready.”