THE GAME OF THE GENERALS DIDN’T PLAY OUT TO EMILIO AGUINALDO COLLEGE’S LIKING AS THE SQUAD ENDURED A BATTERY OF HEAVY AND HUMILIATING DEFEATS EN ROUTE TO TYING FOR THE LEAGUE’S WORST RECORD. THE TASK OF RESTORING HONOR AND PRIDE TO SAN MARCELINO’S ONCE P
Claude Cubo, one of the Generals’ few bright spots in 2010, will split time between the four and five spots as head coach Gerry Esplana admittedly lacks options for the slotman’s role. An automatic doubledouble last year at 10.9 points and 10.4 rebounds a contest, there’s no question Cubo can play in the big leagues. The potential issue rests on the effort he’ll expend inside, and the toll it will take, as the frontline gets even thinner on the bench. Rafael Sanchez didn’t play much (four games, 17 minutes in all) in his rookie season but has shown glimpses of athleticism and energy in summer circuits. That said, the tandem will be one of the most undersized in the entire league in 2011.
Milan Vargas (11.8 PPG, 48 FG%) will carry much of the offensive load alongside Cubo. A spark plug with a good nose for the ball, Vargas picks his shots well inside the two-point range. But with Argel Mendoza using up his eligibility, the one-time UST Tiger will also have to create for Cubo and other teammates. Russel Yaya (5.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG) had an awful year in 2010, making only 26 percent of his attempts. A bounce back campaign has to be in the cards as he’s one of the few remaining veterans on the team. Joshua Torralba, a one-time member of the under-16 national pool, is one of Esplana’s prized recruits. He’s high on the 6’1” playmaker from Rowe High School in McAllen, Texas, saying “ he could start, or he’ll at least be part of the
rotation even if he wasn’t with us in the summer.”
The program was bolstered by the recruitment of Igee King, the 6’2” son of former pro Abe who played high school ball in the Washington state area. Esplana feels King could contribute right away and even start, in the process boosting the level of competition for playing time within the ranks. Holdovers Franz Chiong and Jan Jamon provide above-average support to the starting backcourt. Chiong is a steady leader with good court savvy, while Jamon can open up defenses with his strong dribble penetration. Ralph Juliano and returnee Roy Villegas round out the backcourt.
Veteran Dhan Diolanto will get extended burn as he’ll be the primary back-up to Cubo, or the starter alongside him should Sanchez falter. Former FEUFERN star Jolas Paguia will at the very least vie for minutes in the frontcourt.
Esplana took over with just three games to spare from Nomar Isla in 2010, and expectedly didn’t have time to put his philosophy in practice. Now, it’s his team. “ There were players recommended to me whom I had to kick out to show I mean business,” he says.
The former five-star floor general says his system is completely different from his predecessor’s. “On offense, I use a read-and-react system, not so much on plays but more on rules so I can teach them good habits. But my emphasis is on defense. I also don’t rely on just one person; I try to give all of them the
confidence they need,” Esplana explains.
After a promising inaugural campaign in 2009 that saw the Generals finish with a 6-10 record, the squad lost 14 of 16 games by an average margin of 19.9 points in 2010. The manner of defeat prompted wholesale changes to the program, which included the hiring of Esplana at the tail end of last year. The new man at the helm knows he needs a more confident platoon to catalyze the process. “I always tell them not to mind what others say. I’ll be the last person to lose faith in them,” he professes.
Season 87 will most likely be a long and punishing one for the Generals. There are a couple of good building blocks to start with, but it’ll take some time for the polished product to come out.
C PF SF SG PG Rafael Sanchez Claude Cubo Russel Yaya Milan Vargas Joshua Torralba