AREL­LANO UNIVER­SITY CHIEFS

IF THERE IS A TEAM THAT IS AT THE CROSS­ROADS, THEN THE AREL­LANO UNIVER­SITY CHIEFS ARE IT. IF THEY RULED THE NA­TIONAL CAP­I­TAL RE­GION ATH­LETIC AS­SO­CI­A­TION, THEY HAVE FOUND THE TRAN­SI­TION TO THE NCAA A ROUGH ONE. IN­STEAD OF BE­ING THE HEAD HUN­TERS, IT IS THE

Rebound Magazine - - NCAA PREVIEW - by Rick Olivares

Rocky Acidre and Vergel Zu­lueta are a per­fect NCAA back­court duo. Tough. They can stroke it from the out­side and are fear­less on the drive. Zu­lueta was last year’s rev­e­la­tion. This is where we can see if he can pick it up a notch. An­drian Ce­lada and Jer­ald La­puz will be at for­ward while Prince Caperal will man the slot.

They ear­lier had high hopes that Charles Mam­mie, a 6’8” cen­ter from Free­town, Sierra Leone would try to repli­cate the suc­cess of Sam Ekwe or even Joe Etame. But a fall­ing out dur­ing the sum­mer tour­na­ment led to his even­tual ban­ish­ment from the team.

And boy, does that have dire im­pli­ca­tions for the Chiefs. Not only are they in­con­sis­tent but they are also weak in the mid­dle. Mam­mie may have been raw but at least he took up space and he could jump some. Now, they might as well put up a “drive through” sign.

Ce­lada is just as cru­cial to AU’s fate. He has shown that he can put up big num­bers. Un­for­tu­nately, that’s oft in the early rounds and hardly dur­ing crunch time where he tends to miss and fold. Maybe he’s got a lot of off-court is­sues but this is his chance or else he’ll be con­signed to Liga Pilip­inas anonymity. And there’s the mat­ter of his shot se­lec­tion. If he is able to start out strong and hit some big shots in the clutch, then he can carry this team.

Bench

In case you’ve no­ticed, for­ward Isiah Ciri­acruz has not been men­tioned in the Chiefs’ start­ing five. You won’t find him on the bench ei­ther. In the past two years, Isiah Ciri­acruz has shown flashes of bril­liance. Early in Sea­son 86, he played well as he be­came the team’s go-to guy when they needed a bucket. But he ta­pered off to­wards the end of the sea­son. He was in­jured

in the pre-sea­son and from all in­di­ca­tions, he’ll be out of this year’s NCAA cam­paign. With­out him, the Chiefs will have to go with Mark Doligon who came up from the Ju­niors team. But he is a pro­ject make no mis­take.

Kim Pa­gayu­nan is a car­bon copy of the way Rocky Acidre and Vergel Zu­lueta play. He’s fear­less and tough. And along with JK Casiño, they are okay in the guard po­si­tion but ev­ery­one knows that if you can­not re­bound in the NCAA then you’ve got no chance.

African Charles Okpe will see some time in the mid­dle. But he moves around like Robo­cop and is not a threat to score. He’ll do the dirty work like set screens, re­bound, and block shots. The Chiefs will have to like that but the lack of pol­ished of­fen­sive skills will hurt be­cause the de­fense will have an ex­tra man to try and check their guards. Look to Ronel Del Rosario and Chris­tian Palma to get some min­utes off a

bench that isn’t as good as it once was.

Coach­ing

Leo Isaac led the Chiefs (and the Flam­ing Ar­rows as they were pre­vi­ously known) to NCRAA and Fr. Martin’s Cup glory. Af­ter turn­ing over the reigns to as­sis­tant Junjie Ablan two years ago to be­come the school’s ath­letic di­rec­tor, Isaac felt the itch to coach again. I thought that af­ter he took over from Ablan (who did a mas­ter­ful job in the Chiefs’ maiden NCAA sea­son) mid­way through last year’s sum­mer leagues, the team’s per­for­mance went south. Maybe it was the ab­sence of Gio Ciri­acruz who had grad­u­ated. Maybe it was the ad­her­ence to a zone and not the tough and in-your-face man-to-man de­fense em­ployed by Ablan. But one thing is for sure. Isaac has been given some more tools to com­pete. The onus is on him to get into the Fi­nal Four as Jose Rizal Univer­sity has some­what weak­ened by the de­par­ture of sev­eral vi­tal cogs while Le­tran can­not buy a bas­ket even if their life de­pended on it. To not make it would be a huge dis­ap­point­ment for their man­age­ment and fans.

There were matches last sea­son when, af­ter foes would make an early run on them, they would sub­se­quently fold. They have some tal­ent but do they have that nev­er­say-die attitude that Isaac knows all too well? Fur­ther­more, the Arel­lano faith­ful have waited two years for their African re­in­force­ments to serve out their res­i­dency. They’ve al­ready lost one, and it doesn’t look good at all for them to pa­rade lemons.

Isaac’s on the hot seat here.

In­tan­gi­bles

Three things have to hap­pen for Arel­lano U to achieve its Fi­nal Four as­pi­ra­tions: Ce­lada needs to play with more con­sis­tency. The bench should show up. And Caperal, del Rosario and who­ever is tall enough have to play cen­ter by com­mit­tee and hope the cu­mu­la­tive stats hold up. If all three do not come to­gether, well… that’s strike three and you know what that means.

Out­look

They can be on the out­side look­ing in. But look for them to battle it out for a Fi­nal Four seat. A good start is im­por­tant for them be­cause if the los­ing con­tin­ues (they had a tough time dur­ing the pre-sea­son), then maybe it’s time for change.

C PF SF SG PG

Prince Caperal An­drian Ce­lada Jer­ald La­puz Vergel Zu­lueta Rocky Acidre

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