UNIVERSITY OF THE EAST
Sixth of an eight-part series
Last season’s record: 9-5 (Lost to National University in playoff for No. 4 seed in Final Four)
Losses: Roi Sumang, Bong Gallanza, Charles Mammie, Dan Alberto, Mustapha Arafat, Gino Jumao-as, Mark Olayon, Ivan Hernandez
Key holdovers: Chris Javier, RR De Leon, Paul Varilla,
Newcomers: Fran Yu, Shannon Gagate, Philip Manalang, Jordan Sta. Ana, Ralph Penuela, Jason Varilla, Edson Batiller, Clark Derige, Joshua Gonzales
UNIVERSITY of the East came a playoff game short of making it to the Final Four as the Red Warriors were eliminated by eventual champion National University in a playoff for the No. 4 seed.
This year, the Red Warriors will have a new-look team as they once again eye to make the Final Four for the first time since a UE team led by Paul Lee made it all the way to the finals against Ateneo in 2009.
Spin.ph takes a look at the five burning questions for the Red Warriors this season.
1. How will the absence of Roi Sumang affect the Red Warriors?
UE will be coming into Season 78 without its star player for many years in Sumang, who was recently drafted and signed by Globalport in the PBA. Also no longer with the Red Warriors are Charles Mammie and Bong Galanza. All three combined account for 45 points per game with the team last season.
But coach Derrick Pumaren is unperturbed by the losses of the three key players, seeing their absence as an opportunity for the rookies to step up in Season 78.
“Puwedeng malaking kawalan (si Roi) but I’m confident with the guards that I’ve recruited. Our three-guard rotation of Philip Manalang, Fran Yu, and Edgar Charcos, isa lang si Roi, eto tatlo. We have guards who are real point guards. They are looking to pass first, which is very good to our system of sharing the ball,” said Pumaren.
2. Will the rookies make an immediate impact this season?
The Red Warriors will have nine rookies for this season, led by Manalang and Jordan Sta. Ana, along with Fran Yu and Shannon Gagate of Chiang Kai Shek College. For Pumaren, all nine will definitely be a part of UE’s rotation this year.
All rookies were recruited out of successful high school programs in the country, a move that Pumaren hopes will help the Red Warriors erase what he believed is a ‘losing attitude’ of the team.
“We recruited these guys from winning programs. I’m trying to get players who are winners to erase the losing attitude of UE. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s my opinion. Because UE has not make it to the Final Four, that’s what I’ve seen. Parang they have a losing attitude that losing doesn’t hurt anymore. ‘Yun ang gusto ko mabura,” said Pumaren.
3. Can the veterans step up to the plate?
Playing second-fiddle to the likes of Sumang, Mammie, and Galanza in past seasons, Chris Javier, RR De Leon, and Paul Varilla will play a big role for the Red Warriors this season when they assume the leadership mantle of the team.
Pumaren expects a lot from his veterans this year.
“As I’ve told them last year, kayo ang supporting, now you will be taking the lead. It’s a totally different role. It’s not just leading the team, it’s guiding the rookies,” said the multi-titled coach.
4. Has the team adjusted to Pumaren’s system?
The appointment of Pumaren last year came just weeks before the start of the preseason competitions. Still, the Red Warriors almost made the Final Four under his watch right on his rookie season.
With one full year in handling the team, Pumaren is confident the Red Warriors have finally settled under his system which mostly thrives on pressure defense.
“Naging advantage sa akin ngayon, maybe it’s God’s will na na-move ‘yung opening sa September. Because of it, these guys were able to jell and were given more time to learn the system,” said Pumaren.
5. Can the Red Warriors finally make it to the Final Four?
Despite having a very young line-up, Pumaren believes UE is capable of competing.
“If last season, we had two imports, this year we’ll have an all-Filipino lineup of nine rookies. It’s like a high school team. But that won’t stop us from trying to pull off some surprises this season.” Pumaren said.
The pressure defense will remain as the team’s strength in the hope of churning out more victories this time.
“We’ll use our small line-up to our advantage. We will be faster, quicker, against those big guys. We’ll press them so that we can’t be overpowered by the big men,” said Pumaren.