MATT Salem has been thriving in his new team National University, and it obviously showed when he scored his career-high 26 points against University of the Philippines last Saturday in the UAAP Season 79 basketball tournament.
Surprisingly, the Bulldogs forward has only been paying attention to two things on the stat sheet, none of them about his scoring.
“I have no idea,” Salem said, when asked what his last career-high was before his personal best against the Maroons. “I'm more worried about my turnovers and rebounds. Not on my points."
Salem deflected the credit for his career game to his teammates, and once again offered a team-first reason behind his success in grabbing the boards and limiting his turnovers, instead of scoring buckets.
“We're not the biggest UAAP team. Put us next to La Salle, we're super small,” the 6-foot-4 forward said.
“We only have Matt Aquino and Alfred Aroga. There's our height. So we got to do our job as a small team to box out and rebound,” Salem added.
Salem curiously brought up La Salle in the conversation with SPIN.ph on Monday, and went on to laud the strengths of his former team which remains the only unbeaten squad this season at the end of the first round of the eliminations.
“Their press is insane. They make teams turn over the ball a lot. they're a good team, they have a deep bench as well. They use a lot of players,” said Salem.
“I think what they got going on over there, that's good for them. But I'd rather think about what we got to do and take care of business,” he added.
Despite La Salle looking the part of a title favorite, Salem insisted he had no regrets in moving from the Archers to the Bulldogs camp.
“The truth is, I just wasn’t happy anymore. I felt like I had to move on. I wasn’t growing as a person and a player,” said Salem, adding that thinking about what-ifs had he stayed with La Salle is far from his mind.
“Most definitely not, if I stayed, we don’t even know what would happen. God placed me where I am today, and I'm going along with that,” he added. “I thought it was better to transfer for my growth as a person and a player. That's what it all came down to.”
The soft-spoken Salem also didn’t hold back when asked if the Archers can be beaten this season.
“Yes [they’re beatable]. They’re only human, right?” said Salem. “This UAAP season 79 is totally different. Yes, La Salle is 7-0, they've been giving a lot of teams trouble, but they're beatable.”
“I believe every game is going to be a tough game against any team, honestly. Anyone can be beaten on any given day. I think they're beatable,” he added.