of TECHNOLOGY CARDINALS
THE MAPÚA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY CARDINALS ENGINEERED A MODEST YET MASTERFUL PROJECT IN SEASON 86 AS THEY SURGED TO BECOME THE LEAGUE’S MOST IMPROVED TEAM AND QUALIFIED FOR THE STEPLADDER SERIES AFTER A DISASTROUS 2009. DESPITE LOSING THREE OF ITS FIVE
Height is might in the red half of Muralla as the Cardinal frontline will be bolstered by the entry of 6’8” Yousef Taha. The Filipino-Palestinian big man is a legitimate post-up, back-down threat with soft hands and a sound work ethic. He’s also a presence in the locker room, “a leader,” in his head coach Chito Victolero’s words. Taha is expected to anchor the offense and along the way allow 6’6” Mark Sarangay (6.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, league-best 62.5 FG%) to slide to the four spot and lend the lineup immense ceiling and rebounding prowess.
The heart and soul of the squad, Allan Mangahas, will split time between the point and shooting guard spots to give opposing defenses different looks. While his shot selection remains a bit suspect, his court vision and ability create is second-to-none. The time is now for Mangahas, who, like Sarangay, is on his last playing year. 2007 NCAA Rookie of the Year Jonathan Banal had a forgetful stint last year (1.6 APG, 22.5 FG%) and should bounce back. Completing the quintet is 6’3” point forward Josan Nimes, an exciting slasher who played ball with a lot of flair and dynamism in the Phoenix, Arizona area before moving to Intramuros.
The direct beneficiary of Victolero’s impressive haul of recruits is the squad’s depth. Much-improved center Mike Parala (4.2 RPG, 55.3 FG%) can either play power forward alongside Taha or fill the slotman’s role with Sarangay manning the four. Likewise, 6’5” Jason Pascual won’t be pressed into banging bodies as often and can spend more time on the perimeter, where his skill set (30.7 3PT%) seems more suited.
Defensive specialist Andretti Stevens returns to the lineup after an ACL injury in the latter part of 2010. His peskiness and energy usually set the tone for the Cardinals, whether he starts or comes off the bench. Off-guard Rodel Ranises, another player on his final year, can spark the offense if he can inject more consistency into his three-point shooting arsenal (31 percent). Swingman Kenneth Ighalo’s athleticism and defensive ethos should land him more minutes this year while rugged rookie Jason Cantos provides support. One-time PCU Dolphin Jumel Chien and Ellison Maniego will vie for playing time in the backcourt.
Victolero, a Mapúa alum, has seen his defense-first philosophy grow with the team he inherited back in Season 84. Last year, the redbirds were second only to San Beda in defensive field goal percentage (36 percent), a figure that affirms how much the players have bought into his system. One of Victolero’s more popular orders is holding opponents to “16 or less points a quarter,” a thought process his troops have embraced.
Assisting Victolero are former teammate Randy Alcantara and Yong Garcia, an experienced tactician who’s won championships in leagues like the UCAA and NCRAA.
Endgame poise was an issue Victolero had to address in 2010 as numerous late-game collapses stained his squad’s performance the year prior. “I think they’re more experienced this year. They’re learning how to execute in the endgame and are much better than when I was in my first year,” he explains.
Another area of concern the past seasons was the perceived absence of a vocal and emotional spitfire. The departure of seasoned veterans Macky Acosta, Erwin Cornejo and TG Guillermo could potentially create a leadership vacuum, but Victolero feels that Taha and his veterans can fill that void. “Even if he’s just a rookie, Taha leads the huddle and is very vocal. Allan and Sara [Sarangay] are more vocal now, [too]. They talk more and encourage teammates more. I’m expecting a lot from them,” he says.
The Cardinals should be a better and more competitive unit come Season 87 as the entry of their recruits seems to outweigh the personnel lost to graduation. Mangahas and Co., in fact, look primed to crack the big time, which means a mere Final Four berth won’t do justice to the squad’s talent.
C PF SF SG PG
Yousef Taha Mark Sarangay Josan Nimes Allan Mangahas Jonathan Banal