KEY University of Santo Tomas players are starting to return to the Tigers’ lair after stints outside their mother school, but injuries have kept coach Bong de la Cruz from holding full practices with just over a month to go before the new UAAP season.
De la Cruz said he has set an initial target of mid-June to complete his roster as star Kevin Ferrer and other Tigers return from the PBA D-League, although he felt that would be too close to their July 13 opener for Season 77 against National University.
“Ang target namin ma-buo is second week of June. Kaya lang, dahil sa mga injuries, na-dedelay na naman,” said De la Cruz, who replaced Pido Jarencio after the Tigers' runner-up finish to La Salle last season.
Ferrer, set to be the new go-to guy of the team following the departure of Jeric Teng, can now focus on UST's preparations after finishing his D-League stint with Blackwater, which reached the finals but bowed to NLEX.
Cagayan Valley made an early exit from the Foundation Cup, but Ed Daquioag hadn’t been able to join UST practices as he sprained his ankle while playing for the Rising Suns. Aljon Mariano, Louie Vigil, and Jeepy Faundo are also nursing injuries.
“Hindi pa kami kumpleto,” said De la Cruz on Tuesday. “Si Kevin katatapos lang ng D-League. Then, ’yung ibang players, may mga minor injuries. Hindi kami na-bubuo.”
Although De la Cruz is confident he will be able to form a good team, he stressed that other squads are now a few steps ahead, having seen action with a full lineup in preseason tournaments.
“’Yung ibang teams, buong buo na. Kami, one month before ng tournament, saka lang kami mabubuo na everybody healthy tapos wala nang commitment sa D-League,” said Dela Cruz.
However, De la Cruz said all is not lost since he believes there is still enough time for the UST Tigers to prepare.
“Sa ngayon, meron naman kaming nakikitang positives. Hindi lang talaga makumpleto. ’Yun ang nagiging problema namin kasi sa practice, minsan, tatlo wala. (Sa Fr. Martin Cup game), apat ’yung wala. Tiyaga tiyaga lang,” he said.