ROBERTO Joaquin ‘Joaqui’ Mariano has accepted the challenge of playing a bigger role for De La Salle-Zobel this year as the team prepares for Season 79 of the UAAP.
Mariano is seen as one of the veterans that will pick up the cudgels for the Junior Archers, who will no longer have Aljun Melecio in their roster as last year's juniors MVP has moved up to the seniors squad.
Mariano averaged just 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds as part of the supporting cast of the Junior Archers in Season 78. But the 17-year-old is ready to step up as one of the leaders of the squad following the graduation of Melecio.
“I know that Aljun is not there now but it means that we will have more of a team setup because we can’t rely on just one person. We have to work as a team. It gives us more confidence to play a bigger role for the team this year,” said the 6-foot-4 Mariano.
The Junior Archers began life without Melecio in the FilOil Flying V Premier Cup, where they struggled with a 1-3 record and failed to make the semis.
Mariano, however, proved he could be a major contributor for La Salle-Zobel as he posted 12 points and nine rebounds in the Junior Archers’ 76-69 loss to the Ateneo Blue Eaglets over the weekend in the preseason tournament.
Still, Mariano said the loss was a step in the right direction.
“We are a new team. We are still young. And I think what the team needs are more experience and more games. But even though we didn’t make it, I’m still happy with what we have accomplished so far,” Mariano said.
The Junior Archers had a relatively impressive campaign in Season 78, when they reached the finals before bowing to National University. But the loss only serves to motivate Mariano as he tries to help the Junior Archers put an end to a nine-year title drought.
“It (Season 78) was good, but it’s not good enough. We didn’t get the win kaya parang balewala din,” Mariano said.
“I could have done more because we didn’t get a championship against NU. Even though we lost, it’s a motivation for this year because I have one more year. I can still change that for [my] one last shot,” he added.