WHILE admitting that he has so far been a pale shadow of his true self this season, Jose Rizal University power forward Michael Mabulac hopes his teammates would also step up for the Heavy Bombers to finally barge into the win column of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Coming off a breakout year where he averaged 11.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and one assist in 31.2 minutes to be adjudged as the league’s Most Improved Player, Mabulac is norming just six points on 23.1-percent shooting, six boards, and 1.5 assists in 22 minutes in the Bombers’ first two games — both losses.
“Kahit ako sa sarili ko (nakukulangan),” the third-year forward said in a chat with Spin.ph after the Bombers’ 81-88 loss to San Sebastian on Monday. “(Pero) hindi lang yung laro ko kailangan bumalik.”
One factor that could explain Mabulac’s limited production is the entry of Ghanaian slotman Razak Abdul Wahab, who is nearly averaging a double-double in his first two games.
The Bombers are targeting a return to the Final Four this year as the league’s hosts, but their performance as a whole has so far left much to be desired.
“Hindi ko naman hinihintay yung laro ko, na mahigitan yung ginawa ko last year,” the 22-year-old Bulacan native said. “Ang iniisip ko yung nilalaro ng teammates ko, yung nilalaro namin, kasi parang medyo pigil.”
“(Pero) yaw ko mag-promise na babawi. Ayaw rin ni coach Vergel ng ganun: bawi na lang ng bawi. Gusto niya gawin mo, pakita mo.”
“Ayaw ko sabihin na next game mag-bu-buwaya ko, talagang gagawin ko lahat, kasi team ‘to eh.”
Mabulac also revealed an ankle injury, sustained the day before the Stags’ game, has slowed him down.
“Balak ko talagang hindi maglaro kanina pero napilitan eh. Hindi ko rin talaga magalaw,” he said. “Pero ayaw ko naman sabihin na dahil lang sa injury ko…talagang na-outhustle rin kami nila.”
The Bombers held a long meeting, led by assistant coach Cholo Villanueva, in their dugout after the loss against the Stags.
Villanueva, according to Mabulac, asked his players, one by one, what their problems have been. And Mabulac recalled one from his teammate that summed up their season so far.
“Sabi nung isa kulang kami sa unity, sa tiwala sa isa’t-isa. Parang hindi daw kami team,” Mabulac said.