CEBU CITY – With several key cogs departing the team including Aljon Mariano, the University of Santo Tomas Tigers have shored up their frontcourt by securing the commitment of one of Cebu’s top high school prospects.
Zachy Huang, a 6-foot-2 lefty forward from the reigning Cesafi juniors champions Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles, gave his commitment to UST coach Bong dela Cruz on Tuesday night, saying it was an honor to play for a UAAP squad with such storied tradition.
“I feel so blessed and honored that they chose to recruit me. It has always been a dream of mine ever since I started playing basketball to play in the UAAP,” said Huang over dinner where he was joined by his mother Debbie, who he considers his inspiration.
Huang is a key piece of the Magis Eagles’ frontcourt attack where he is joined by Cesafi juniors MVP Janjan Jaboneta and rookie standout Joshua Sinclair. He played a big role in Ateneo de Cebu’s title win over the University of the Visayas in the Cesafi finals.
They will be going for another title this Sunday when they battle the Baby Lancers once again for the right to represent Cebu in the National Basketball Training Center National Finals.
“I know that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done especially with my dribbling and shooting skills but I’m more than willing to go through all those,” added Huang. "I don’t expect the transition to the college level to be easy but I’m excited."
Dela Cruz figures Huang play the small forward position at the Tigers camp after taking notice of the youngster’s talent and skills at the 2014 Palarong Pambansa basketball tournament where the youngster played for Central Visayas.
“Dun talaga namin napansin si Zachy (Huang). Aside sa skills, yung puso ng bata ang nakita namin, which is perfect for the Tomasian brand of basketball, yung larong palaban talaga,” said dela Cruz who is hopeful of turning the Tigers’ fortunes around after a 5-9 campaign last year.
However, the Tigers will have to do it without Mariano and another big man, Paolo Pe, who have both exhausted their playing years. But more than the manpower, dela Cruz pointed out to their cohesion - or lack thereof - as the main problem last season.
Dela Cruz hopes to remedy that by joining as many tournaments as possible in the months leading up to Season 88. Aside from playing in several tournaments in Manila, the Growling Tigers are slated to head down south for the 2015 Cebu City Charter Day Collegiate Basketball Challenge.
“That way, mahahasa talaga ang togetherness ng mga bata. Sa ngayon medyo kulang pa talaga with Kevin Ferrer and Louie Vigil still playing in the PBA D-League. Hopefully pagkatapos ng liga na 'yun, we can all concentrate on our preparations for the UAAP,” said dela Cruz.