JETT Manuel believes that University of the Philippines has what it takes to reach the finals of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament.
The Fighting Maroons are on the verge of the title series after hacking out a 73-71 win over Adamson on Saturday in their first Final Four game since 1997, dragging the twice-to-beat Falcons to a decider on Wednesday.
But the former UP skipper is confident the Maroons are capable of getting over the hump with the talent of the team. But first, Manuel said State U should not be contented on just reaching the Final Four that ended a 21-year wait.
“They are playing at a high level right now,” said Manuel. “They just have to keep doing what they are doing, not thinking about who they are going up against or the factors.”
“They should not be contented. They should dream high because they have a chance to win a championship. Reaching the Final Four is great but if ‘yung pagiging team captain ko ang lalabas, sasabihin ko na don’t be contented. We achieved something but that’s not the goal,” he added.
Manuel said he expected a big season for the Maroons based on the talent the team has collected led by season Most Valuable Player Bright Akhuetie, Paul Desiderio, Juan, and Javi Gomez de Liano.
“We started rough. Lumabas naman ‘yung immaturity and inexperience. But talent-wise, all the interviews I had this season, guestings, and sports analyst jobs, I said that UP deserves to be there just because of the talent. I felt that it was really this time na they deserve to be in the Final Four.
Manuel was not present when UP clinched a Final Four berth win a victory over La Salle on November 14 as his PBA team Barangay Ginebra had a semifinal match against Magnolia.
The former UP Maroon said he was secretly following the UAAP game during pregame. The morning of game day, Manuel also texted his former teammates Paul Desiderio, Diego Dario, and Gelo Vito wishing them all the best.
“I was secretly following the game through my pre-game preparation. Hindi na ako nagpre-game shooting para mapanood ko ‘yung game. When I saw that we were up mga 20 points sa third quarter, I was just checking the score. I was keeping track. I’m sad that I wasn’t there in person but I’m happy we got the win (Ginebra) and coach Tim (Cone) would forgive me,” said Manuel.
Manuel was not able to catch the final buzzer of UP's game as Game Three of the semifinals was already underway.
“I’m really, really, really happy for the whole UP community, for myself and all the players who were part of the program. It is something na nag-culminate. Everything just came together finally. Me personally, leaving UP with that goal na I wanted to leave something behind and a culture behind. We tried to start something which will lead to something like this,” said Manuel.