FROM being one of the UAAP's whipping boys, University of the Philippines has turned the corner for the better part of the past three years and reformed itself to one of the top destinations for recruits in the country.
But as beneficial as the deluge of bluechip acquisitions are for the Fighting Maroons, coach Bo Perasol admitted that somehow, the recruitment wars in the collegiate front has already "gotten out of hand."
"I’ll be going out on a limb if I say this, but yes, it’s really going out of hand. And I’m part of that also. Alam ko naman,” said the soft-spoken mentor in the Hoop Coaches International webinar hosted by Flying V and Blackwater last week.
Under Perasol's watch, UP has gotten tremendous support from its alumni, with NowheretogobutUP Foundation taking the lead.
Their support was crucial in securing the commitments of transferees like Bright Akhuetie from Perpetual, Jun Manzo from University of the Visayas, Ricci Rivero from La Salle, and Kobe Paras, who came home from the United States.
That's on top of the Fighting Maroons being able to keep their homegrown talents, most notably brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño from the UPIS Junior Maroons.
"That's one of the major changes that our program is enjoying right now, that we became a destination for players who for years before, wouldn’t even think about going to UP," Perasol said.
Those talents were vital in helping UP turn a new leaf as it was able to position itself as a contender, making the Final Four for two consecutive seasons including a runner-up finish in UAAP Season 81.
With winning comes the draw, and Perasol knows that UP enjoying its most triumphant stretch yet was enough to lure talents to Diliman.
"That's one of the advantages that we have as a result of the success that we had in the past few years, na nagiging hindi ka na last option. Naging first option ka na ng mga players ngayon from other teams," he said.
Former NCAA Juniors MVP Joel Cagulangan, who spent a year in La Salle, and Senegalese center Maodo Malick Diouf, who played for Centro Escolar University, are the latest in that recruitment haul, with both set to play for the Fighting Maroons in UAAP Season 84.
Being the underdog that he is, Perasol couldn't help but aspire for that time when every team will have an equal footing when it comes to recruitment and not just favor those schools with steady financial bankrollers.
"It's also a reflection of what the pro league is doing right now. Kung sino ang may pera, sila ang nagkakaroon ng talent. That's the reality," he said.
"But if one way or the other, the people that has a hand in managing all of these could see that we could find a way to strike a balance na everybody could be able to compete in terms of recruitment and playing, I think basketball is going to be better in our country."
Right now, however, it's a matter of if and not when.