UNIVERSITY of the East has a long way to go in its bid to regain its place among the UAAP's elite teams despite victories in two offseason tournaments, said assistant coach Bai Cristobal.
After winning just three games in the last UAAP season, the Red Warriors ruled the Asian University Basketball Championship and the Fr. Martin Cup Division II crown last month and nearly captured the University Games title in Bacolod City.
UE beat five-time UAAP champion Ateneo in the UniGames semifinals but was forced to forfeit the championship game against National University as the Boycie Zamar-coached squad had to play to Taiwan to represent the country in the Asian University Men’s Basketball Championship, which is now ongoing.
However, Cristobal refused to get carried away with the title victories, insisting these are no more than baby steps in the Warriors' mission to regain respectability in the country's premier college league.
“No promises,” said Cristobal. “We need to keep working hard. As a coach for more than 20 years, I know that (all the wins) we should leave behind. We don’t want to dwell on it.”
Cristobal said that as far as the coaching staff is concerned, everyone is competing for a spot in the UAAP team at this point of the year.
“These are the players who are trying to get a spot. They need to keep working hard. They need to put (the titles) in proper perspective,” said Cristobal.
The Red Warriors competed in two of the three tournaments with a combination of regulars from the UAAP team led by Roi Sumang, who came close to clinching a Mythical Five spot last season, and members of the second team of upcoming players and a couple of foreign players.
The lineup in the Fr. Martin Cup tournament was composed purely of ‘Team B’ players, but JM Noble and Lord Casajeros are in line to regain their spots in the regular team next year.
African imports Charles Mammie, an Arellano transferee, and Moustaph Arafat are also a cinch to land spots in the UAAP team once they become eligible in a few years.