UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES FIGHTING MAROONS
0-14. SIX WINS IN FIVE SEASONS. FOUR COACHES IN SIX. THEY GAVE UP BIG LEADS. THEY GAVE UP SMALL LEADS. MANY TIMES, THEY SIMPLY GAVE UP. THIS IS THE SCENARIO RICKY DANDAN WALKED INTO WHEN HE AGREED TO BECOME THE NEW HEAD COACH OF THE UP FIGHTING MAROONS,
As the summer league season began, the Maroons were dealt a serious blow in their quest to become more competitive when off guard Alvin Padilla was declared academically ineligible. This is undoubtedly a big loss for the team, for Padilla is a veteran who can score both from the outside and on drives to the basket and who can also play good oneon-one defense.
Taking his place on the starting roster will most likely be sophomore Jett Manuel, who showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season. Joining him in the back court will be the comebacking Mike Gamboa, who quit the team last year after he was hardly used in 2009. Mike Silungan, the team’s best offensive weapon, will be back at the small forward spot, while third-year player Mark Juruena will most likely get the nod at the four spot. Rounding up the first five will be Alinko Mbah, the 6’7” African import of UP who should provide some rebounding and shot blocking.
Just like the starting five, the bench was also decimated somewhat when incoming big man Raul Suyod, a transferee from West Negros College, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in January and will now have to sit out an additional year before making his UAAP debut. Suyod’s loss weakens an already thin frontline rotation, and Dandan is hoping to get quality minutes out of second-year centers Martin Pascual and Vergel Evangelista and third-year power forward Carlo Gomez.
Rookie Paolo Romero from the Ateneo Blue Eaglets will likely see some time at the three spot together with a pair of balik-UP players Don Fortu and Julius Wong, while Miggy Maniego and Moriah Gingerich will battle for minutes at the two spot. Making their UAAP debuts will be Fil-Am Robbie Weirzba and College of St. Benilde transferee Jelo Montecastro.
Overall, it’s not a particularly deep team in the post, and the point guard rotation of Gamboa, Weirzba and Montecastro isn’t exactly that formidable. But the wing players are pretty solid, even with the loss of Padilla.
Dandan is a highly respected tactician, a Joe Lipa disciple of the highest order who has years of coaching experience under his belt. He left a successful job as director of the Ateneo basketball program to take on what he considers a dream job of coaching his alma mater. He’ll be assisted by his former UP teammates Jojo Villa, Joey Mendoza and Duane Salvaterra, all of whom are coaching veterans as well. Dandan’s son Mark rounds up the coaching staff.
Like his mentor, Dandan is a strict disciplinarian who has little patience for slackers. He isn’t afraid to scream at his players and get in their faces if they’re not meeting his standards. His first order of business upon his appointment was addressing the team’s strength and physical conditioning, a major development for a team widely regarded as among the softest in the UAAP.
The loss of Padilla made this relatively young team even younger. Silungan, Gamboa and Maniego are the only players with at least three years’ worth of college ball experience, and young teams are always more likely to commit mental mistakes during games. But if the Maroons stay healthy throughout the season and if they finally catch a break or two, then maybe the Dandan era in Diliman will get off to a good, if not decent, start.
The way the 2011 UAAP landscape is shaping up, UP should be competitive against the likes of UE and UST. But they just aren’t a Final Four-caliber team, at least not this season. Ateneo, FEU and La Salle are all loaded with talent, and Adamson will always be competitive with Leo Austria at the helm. Plus NU has a pretty good recruiting class coming in.
Rebounding remains a major area for improvement; a frontline of Alinko, Juruena, Evangelista and Gomez will surely have its work cut out against the Slaughters, Chuas, Van Opstals, Torreses, and Ramoses. And at the point, Gamboa always has problems when defended by taller guards. But considering the string of bad luck that has hounded the team in recent years, you somehow get the feeling they’re due for a few good breaks down the road.
C PF SF SG PG Alinko Mbah Mark Juruena Mike Silungan Jett Manuel Mike Gamboa