A DREAM run in the 88th NCAA season, a first Final Four appearance in eight years, a Most Improved Player award, and a Mythical Team selection.
All these University of Perpetual Help swingman Earl Thompson said he owes to veteran coach Aric del Rosario.
The same man who piloted University of Santo Tomas to four straight UAAP men’s basketball championships from 1993 to 96, again worked his so-called `Aric Magic’ on the Altas that resulted in their return to the Final Four for the first time since 2004.
Under del Rosario’s watch, Thompson also blossomed into one of the league’s most reliable shooting forwards, so much so that he bagged two of the season’s top individual honors.
“Si coach Aric ang dahilan ng pag-Most Improved Player ko,” he said. “Kung di dahil sa kanya di ko siguro nakuha 'yun."
Thompson admitted he has learned so much from his 72-year-old coach.
"Malaki ang ginawa ni coach Aric," he said. "Magaling siya mag-motivate. Sinasabi niya sa akin ang mga mali ko, kung ano pa ang dapat kong gawin para gumaling pa ang laro ko."
Del Rosario took over as Altas head coach in December, and almost immediately turned the perennial cellar-dwellers into a team capable of competing against the league’s heavyweights, including defending champion San Beda, San Sebastian, and Letran.
"Noong pumasok siya sa team ang laki na ng nagbago sa ugali, lalo na sa disiplina," said the 19-year old native of Digos City.
Altas skipper Anthony Paulino also had glowing words for del Rosario.
"Ang laki na ng pinagbago ng team. Dati bibigay na, pero ngayon lumalaban na yung lineup. Patay kung patay na laban pa rin," said the 6-foot-3 power forward.
Thompson considers del Rosario not just a good coach inside the court, but outside of it as well.
"Inside and out ng court ang laki ng naitulong sakin ni coach at syempre pati sa buong team," he said.
"Strikto siya pero alam namin na para naman sa ikabubuti namin yun. At walang nag-doubt noong nalaman namin na siya yung bagong coach," added Justine Alano.
For Paulino, Aric is God's gift to their team.
"Blessing ni Lord si coach Aric sa team talaga, kasi natulungan niya 'yung mga players at 'yung basketball department mismo. Ang dami niya na-share na kaalaman sa amin," said Paulino.
With del Rosario behind them, Thompson, Paulino, and the rest of the Altas hope to do even better by next season.