[Here's Part IV of our preview for UAAP Season 79]
Season 78 review: Finished fourth with a 7-7 win-loss card, lost to University of Santo Tomas in the Final Four
Key losses: Gelo Alolino, Pao Javelona, Kyle Neypes, Jeff Javillonar, Reden Celda
Key holdovers: Alfred Aroga, J-Jay Alejandro, Rev Diputado, Med Salim
Newcomers: Joshua Sinclair, JV Gallego, Matt Salem, Matthew Aquino
AFTER National University failed to retain its crown last year, head coach Eric Altamirano believes the Bulldogs now have enough depth to contend with the best teams in UAAP Season 79.
“One thing unique in our team is everybody can step up,” said Altamirano. “I think we have that depth to compete with other teams. Maganda ‘yung mixture of old and new players.”
Altamirano also feels that the deeper roster will enable the Bulldogs to sustain an effective defensive system and match up with every team on offense at the same time.
“We are more of a defensive team ever since for the last five years [I’ve been] coaching NU, we are really focused on our defense. Hindi mawawala ‘yun,” he said
“Now, we wanted to add something more. I feel that [with] our personnel, we will be able to maximize our strengths with what we are trying to introduce sa offense namin,” Altamirano added.
Despite the departure of a few more players from the 2014 championship run led by Gelo Alolino, the Bulldogs have maintained a solid core led by Alfred Aroga and J-Jay Alejandro. The influx of several notable newcomers who have moved up in their system also added to Altamirano’s confidence.
“Half of our team are rookies but it’s a mix of transferees and rookies fresh from high school,” said Altamirano.
Leading the rookies are Matt Salem and Matthew Aquino, who will finally play for the Bulldogs after transferring from La Salle and Adamson, respectively.
Joshua Sinclair, who was part of the national 3x3 team in international competitions in the past few years, and JV Gallego, known for being a three-point specialist from Chiang Kai Shek College, are also playing for the Bulldogs this season.
“It’s going to be a work in progress but I’m confident that they will be able to contribute,” said Altamirano.
The NU coach now hopes to address the team’s consistency to prevent another dismal start like last season, where only a late push salvaged the Bulldogs’ campaign.
“We started out slow last season. We started 0-3, then we picked it up in the second round. One thing we have to learn is to be consistent. ‘Yun ang sinasabi ko lagi sa mga players na ang focus natin for this season is consistent improvement,” Altamirano said.
“We don’t want to be the same team when we finished the season. Mas maganda kung better kami,” he added.