The De La Salle University Green Archers start their defense of their title as they go up against their rival school the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles in Season 71 of the UAAP. What a difference a year makes, if last year the Green Archers were the overwhelming favorites this year the tables have been turned. It is a consensus among teams that FEU is the team to beat while UE and DLSU are there to compete, UST and Adamson looms as the darkhorses while Ateneo if they remain consistent can also win it all.
This Saturday UE and UST test each other’s mettle while the Green Archers open their defense against the Eagles. Judging from the recently concluded NSL and FilOil pre season tournaments I would pick UE over UST and Ateneo over De La Salle. But that is just for the game this weekend, since the whole UAAP season 71 a long way to go and as we know it will be a roller coaster ride to the finals. The Eagles and Warriors are ready and like what I said the way they played in the pre season shows that they had good preparations that can make the difference in their game this weekend.
The Tigers and Archers on the other hand are both recuperating from injuries and have been playing tune ups with an incomplete line up which makes them questionable this week end but you can never count them out.
The Eagles made a lot of noise this summer mainly because of the acquisition of four blue chip rookies which makes them competitive in the next five years. The pre season helped season these rookies and what Norman Black said it made them understand the system that he runs. Ryan Buenafe, Nico Salva, Justin Chua and Vince Burke and former Blue Eaglet Tonino Gonzaga comprise the five rookies who will try to contribute in their own little way to the Blue Eagles.
Although highly touted, much is not expected of them and this year they were lined up just to go through the motions of feeling the UAAP. As Coach
put it, “Lets face it no rookie has ever made a big difference in the UAAP, it’s the veterans who make the plays!” With that statement Coach Norman seems optimistic with his chances since Veteran pressure player Chris Tiu is back in his final year. Just like Mike from the 6peat Bulls, you know that the ball will go to him at crunch time but you have a hard time stopping him from scoring and making an important play. Add to that an improved Rabbah Al-Husaini and you have a potent combination. Norman
The Eagles can now count on their seasoned sophomores who contributed well last season. The troika of Nonoy Baclao, Chris Tiu clone Kirk Long and Juniors MVP Bacon Austria, will help Coach Norman very much for these sophomores have matured and can contribute a lot on defense and if left open can spot up and make their opponents pay. Also back is co–captain Yuri Escueta whose speed and decision making can give opponents a scare. He can match up well with Japs Cuan of UST and James Martinez of UE.
The frontline is safe with the rotation of Mike Baldos and the 16th Man Jobe Nkemakolam whose inclusion gives the team another low post operator. Rounding up the team is NSL MVP Eric Salamat who is more versatile now and will most probably carry the team in some games together with the sharp shooters Jai Reyes and Oping Sumalinog.
The Archers if they come out complete will be led by one of the most explosive guards in the UAAP today, JV Casio. Casio is the type of guard you wouldn’t want to get going since he will definitely bury you with all kinds of shots and like Tiu he can also deliver in the clutch. Add to that the high flying Rico Maierhofer then you have a team that can contend. Rico’s aggressiveness is what makes other teams worry about their chances of winning against DLSU. You got to box him out or else you stand to get an AND 1 play against him. The team lost veterans TY Tang and Cholo Villanueva together with other contributors like Brian Ilad, OJ Cua and Kish Co. Taking their roster spots are Hyram Bagatsing, speedy LA Revilla, MJ Mendoza, Maui Villanueva, Manoj Chandumal and David Joshua Webb who head the cast of six rookies for the Archers.
Simon Atkins will now be the lead guard who will also get help from Bader Malabes. PJ Walsham will man the post together with Ferdinand. The player with the most notable improvement in the preseason is PJ Barua who the team will now count on this season together with James Mangahas and Rejan Lee. Finally after a long wait Marko Batricevic will be able to play for the Green Archers. A natural small forward, the 6-6 Serbian will most probably be playing power forward or center which will give the Archers much versatility if ever they want to play big.
Like what everyone says, throw away the stats because every Ateneo vs.
La Salle game it’s the heart not the talent that matters. When the game ends it will always be the team that wants the win more who will come out on top. For the Blue Eagles, an opening day loss will be a big disappointment considering their preparations the previous 5 months. So Lets GO BLUE EAGLES! Fight for the Blue and White!