[Here's Part VIII of our special preview for UAAP Season 79]
Key holdovers: Bonbon Batiller, Paul Varilla, Clark Derige, Emil Palma, RR De Leon, Mark Olayon
Key losses: Chris Javier, Fran Yu
Newcomers: Alvin Pasaol
UNIVERSITY of the East has not made it to the Final Four for the last six years, but head coach Derrick Pumaren has reasons to expect that breaking through to the next round is achievable in Season 79.
In his third year at the helm of the Red Warriors, Pumaren expects UE to become a vastly improved team this season. Starting center Chris Javier is the lone notable player who has finished his college career with the Red Warriors, giving the team an intact line-up this year.
Pumaren is also confident Bonbon Batiller, the second year player who lead the team in scoring last year as a rookie, can make great strides in Season 79 as one of the key pieces to the Red Warriors campaign.
“I think he has matured. He has experience on how to play in the UAAP,” Pumaren said.
The Red Warriors have added depth with the inclusion of Alvin Pasaol. A transferee from Davao, Pasaol showed he belonged in the UAAP when he displayed his scoring prowess in the preseason.
“It’s a matter of playing the same way this coming UAAP. He will give us more firepower, something that we lacked last year,” said Pumaren.
Pumaren also hopes big man Clark Derige, who missed parts of the preseason due to an injury, will continue with his emergence from last year’s second round with Javier no longer with the squad..
Paul Varilla and RR De Leon also remained with the team, and are expected to give the Red Warriors much-needed leadership this year.
With depth and experience, Pumaren believes UE has the ingredients to finally make it to the Final Four.
“I think so,” said Pumaren, when asked if a Final Four berth is attainable. “I think we are a better team this year than last year. We have more experience this time.”