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    Paul Lee, other former Warriors pleased to see UE break out of slump

    Oct 20, 2022
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    Red Warriors alumni at the stands to support the squad.

    IT'S been a while since University of the East has gained the respect of the UAAP field.

    And with the resurgent Red Warriors showing some signs of fight, former players are just proud to see the team be competitive in Season 85.

    "It feels good to be back," said Paul Lee. "I think they're for real right now. When was the last time na nanalo sila ng back-to-back? Masaya na naka-compete na ulit yung school namin. Nakakatuwa at nakakaproud."

    See UP Maroons turn to bench to put away tenacious UE Warriors

    Roi Sumang added, "Syempre masaya din ako na nananalo yung school ko."

    "Happy kami na nananalo na ulit yung UE ngayon. Ngayon, bumabalik at lumalaban ulit," chimed in Rey Suerte.

    The three former King Warriors were at the MOA Arena to see UE's valiant stand against defending champion University of the Philippines before bowing, 84-77, on Wednesday.

    Their presence was very much appreciated by coach Jack Santiago who was glad to note the increase of fans supporting the team on the stands.

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    "Of course, nakakataba ng puso. Even during our practices, there are alumni na tumutulong sa team, bringing some food sa mga bata," he said.

    "Even ako nakikita ko when I go to the athletics office, may mga alumni who are asking for tickets already. Maganda at nakakagulat nga kanina when we had a run, meron pala kaming crowd na sumusuporta na sa amin. I want to thank them also. It’s a big help for the team na makita yung suporta ng community."

    Despite the loss, the Red Warriors behind new bloods in Luis Villegas, CJ Payawal, and brothers Kyle and Nikko Paranada have proven that they're no pushovers as they remain in the thick of the Final Four race with an even 3-3 record.

    This grit only brings a smile to the UE alumni who have seen better days in the past.

    Lee spearheaded the Red Warriors' last trip to the Finals back in 2009 where he, Elmer Espiritu, and Pari Llagas led the team to a bridesmaid finish in UAAP Season 72 against the mighty Ateneo team.

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    Sumang, on the other hand, was UE's top gun in UAAP Season 77 as the team, which also included Charles Mammie and Dan Alberto, came close of making it to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion National University in the fourth-seed playoff back in 2014.

    Suerte, meanwhile, was the Red Warriors' anchor in UAAP Season 82 in 2019 when the team last won back-to-back games.

    Though already pursuing their own professional careers in the PBA, the three admitted that UE will always have a special place in their heart - the main reason why they keep on coming back especially with the run that the current team has now.

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      Suerte, who was teammates with a few of the players in the team like Harvey Pagsanjan, Jojo Antiporda, Abdul Sawat, and Allan Beltran, said that he still makes it a point of visiting his old peers, noting, "Lagi akong pumupunta sa Gastambide. Binibisita ko yung mga dating tropa ko doon at sabi ko sa kanila, dapat bumawi sila ngayong season na ito dahil sa nangyari last season."

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      And they're elated with how the team has went under the guidance of Santiago as the Red Warriors try to put their miserable past behind.

      "Before kasi wala talagang recruitment. So ngayon, nag-recruit na ng players kasi alam ko pito yung Fil-Ams sa kanila tsaka maganda yung sistema talaga ni coach Jack siguro kaya nananalo," said Sumang. "Lahat naman maganda yung sistema. Depende lang kung ano yung magfi-fit tsaka may piyesa na talaga sila at umiikot yung bola. Maganda tignan at nananalo din."

      Sumang was impressed of the way that Kyle Paranada has played saying, "Parang si Paul [Lee]."

      Lee, for his part, said Payawal stood out for him: "Napanood ko siya against Adamson. Although natalo sila, yung game niya sobrang smooth lang. He doesn't force any shots, he picks his spots lang. Nakakatuwa makapanood ng ganoong college players na di lang ratratan. I'm rooting for that guy at sa buong UE team."

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      As much as UE has been the feel good story of the season though, the alumni were quick to remind the boys that the job still isn't over.

      "Kailangan pang pagbutihin yung remaining games. It's too early para sabihin na pasok na. Kailangan pa rin pagsikapan yung remaining games," said Suerte.

      Lee echoed those sentiments and stated, "It's too early to say na ganoon nga."

      "These last two [first round] games is a good chance for them para ma-gauge kung anong level nila kasi sa UAAP every game, sobrang importante lalo na this season, sobrang daming upset na nangyayari. Let's just take it one game at a time."

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      Red Warriors alumni at the stands to support the squad.
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