ADAMSON UNIVERSITY FALCONS
ADAMSON UNIVERSITY TURNED THE PROVERBIAL CORNER WITH MUCH GUSTO IN SEASON 73, LEAPING TO ITS FIRST FINAL FOUR BERTH SINCE 2006 AND BURYING ALL THE GHOSTS OF BLOWN ENDGAMES AND CHOKE JOBS THE CAMPAIGN BEFORE. A RUNNER-UP FINISH IN THE COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONS
Coach Leo Austria found an antidote to the last-minute mishaps of 2009 in Lester Alvarez and Alex Nuyles. Alvarez (9.5 PPG, league-best 86.7 FT%) grabbed the starting point guard spot from Jerick Cañada and didn’t disappoint, displaying leadership and poise in the clutch. Austria expects even more from his playmaker in 2011, saying, “I need to see him step up in knockout games, not just in the eliminations.” Nuyles (team-high 12.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG) has grown into a potent offensive option, complementing his slashing ability with a respectable mid-range jumper. He’ll swing from the two and three spots with defensive specialist Janus Lozada.
The center position was the Falcons’ sore spot in 2010. Kenyan slotman Austin Manyara (3.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 31.7 FG%) struggled and underwhelmed in his UAAP debut. While Mike Galinato’s departure won’t be missed, there’s pressure on Manyara to deliver as his build and athletic ability aren’t easy to find. The ever-reliable Jan Colina’s numbers took a hit, but the Cebuano power forward remains a focal point in Adamson’s scheme because of his rebounding prowess and post and elbow repertoire.
Cañada didn’t fuss over losing the starting job and was arguably the league’s most effective back-up playmaker, leading the team in assists (2.9) despite playing just above 17 minutes a game. Much-improved power forward Eric Camson (9.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG) came off the bench in all but one game and ensured there wouldn’t be a drop-off whenever his number was called. His aggressiveness and
ability to sink the 15-foot jumper makes him an invaluable part of the rotation. Fellow thirdyear teammate Roider Cabrera (21.2 3PT%) is a threat from beyond the arc but needs to be more consistent with his sniping.
Rodney Brondial proved to be a revelation in Adamson’s exciting run in the 2010 PCCL, where he averaged 6.8 points and 1.8 blocks in six games. He’s more than an insurance policy should Manyara flop because of his wingspan and work ethic. Ex-Perpetual Help Alta Harry Petilos is a swingman being eyed by Austria to replace Will Stinnett. Look for sophomores Allen Etrone and Ryan Monteclaro to get more burn in the two and one spots, respectively.
Austria is one of the game’s pure tactical geniuses. His ability to adapt to the opposition, switch defenses on the fly and make ingame decisions that his players can easily comprehend and subsequently execute make him an indispensable part of the Falcon fabric.
The 53-year-old strategist has gotten his troops to embrace a selfless, team-first attitude. In Season 73, no Falcon averaged more than 28 minutes a game while the squad dominated almost all hustle categories, leading the league in steals and turnovers forced while allowing the least number of second-chance points. In fact, one of the things Austria aimed to address in the preseason was some of his players’ penchant to put themselves before the team. “Some of them were able to play in the PBA D-League, and that was the reason why they had that tendency to think they were already stars. I had to watch out for that,” he says in Tagalog.
There’s undoubtedly a lot of talent across the board in San Marcelino. But is it enough to get the Falcons over the hump in 2011? Austria has theorized time and again over the summer. “I look at my team and see the potential. If we play the way we did in the PCCL, and even in the Fr. Martin [Open] Cup, where we won nine straight before losing a knockout game, there’s a big chance we’ll land in the Final Four. My goal is to get to the top three,” he asserts.
With Alvarez, Cañada and Colina all playing out their final year in Season 74, there’s added pressure to go for the jugular, which entails beating Ateneo, something Adamson hasn’t done since 1997.
The Falcons have the lineup to duplicate the success of 2010. But the top is getting more crowded, so the margin for error is much smaller.