ERIC Altamirano knew the collection of talent in University of the Philippines was built to win a championship.
Eric Altamirano on UP ending title drought
What he didn't foresee was how fast this group of Fighting Maroons would realize their dreams.
"I didn't expect this team to win right away. I see this team winning down the road," said Altamirano, the Finals MVP the last time the Diliman side hoisted the trophy.
UP, the perennial doormats for the better part of the last two decades, finally completed its Cinderella story by winning the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball crown over the seemingly invincible Ateneo no less -- one that makes this triumph much sweeter.
"You can't imagine a team beating Ateneo more than once, but they did. With the way they played, how many times na it felt like wala na? And then biglang may gagawin yung UP na sabi nga nila doesn't happen often. Talagang destiny eh," he told Spin.ph.
Altamirano couldn't help but feel emotional as there finally is a Fighting Maroons crew that replicated what he, alongside teammates Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc, Joey Guanio, and more, did in 1986.
"I'm happy for the UP community kasi alam ko di naman yan one year in the making. It's been years since they started to rebuild and support the men's basketball team," he said.
"For the longest time, hindi ma-unite yung community. The last time na nagawa yun was yung time namin na nag-champion kami. Comparing it to now, solid talaga yung support, all out talaga and I'm happy kasi nag-pay off yung kanilang sacrifices at trabaho nila to make the team competitive."
The champion coach, who watched a UAAP game for the first time since he left his post in National University in 2016, also relished witnessing history first hand as he regarded it as the "best game I've seen in a long time."
A big part of that joy comes from how some of the players came through the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) program, among them JD Cagulangan and Ricci Rivero (La Salle Greenhills), Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, Harold Alarcon, and Terrence Fortea (National University), and CJ Cansino (University of Santo Tomas), just to name a few.
With the third UAAP crown now in the bag for UP, Altamirano is just hopeful that it won't take more than three decades again for this feat to be repeated.
"Compared nung time namin, we could not keep the team together. Pero ngayon, bata pa yung team kaya sana maulit," he wished. "They're just getting started."
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