2013 finish: eighth (6-12 win-loss)
Key losses: Jordan dela Paz, Nick Abanto, Paolo Pontejos
Key additions: Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab, Jaycee Asuncion, Tey Teodoro
Key holdovers: Michael Mabulac, Philip Pangiamogan, Gio Lasquety, Dave Sanchez
IT seems Jose Rizal University has finally found an answer to its size problems.
Ever dangerous but always exploited by taller teams, the Heavy Bombers now have a legitimate big man in Razak Abdul Wahab.
And the arrival of the 6-foot-6 slotman from Ghana is expected to bolster the Bombers’ bid to return to the Final Four in Season 90 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Bombers have missed the semifinals for two successive seasons, including last year when they wound up with just six wins in 18 games to finish eighth among 10 teams, their worst since 2006.
But with the coming of their first foreign reinforcement in a while, the Bombers appear ready to escape mediocrity.
A defensive stalwart, Abdul Wahab averaged close to 10 rebounds and two blocks in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Cup as he helped the Bombers reach the quarterfinals of the preseason tournament.
But it’s not only the Ghanaian who’s making waves for the Bombers as they also boast two prized local acquisitions in guards Jaycee Asuncion, a transferee from University of Perpetual Help, and high school graduate Tey Teodoro.
Together with key returnees in stalwart Michael Mabulac, gunner Philip Paniamogan, and serviceable guards Gio Lasquety and Dave Sanchez, they form a solid core under coach Vergel Meneses, who still instills his trademark pressure defense to win games.
Proving their worth, the Bombers stunned eventual titlist, and UAAP and national collegiate champion La Salle in the elimination round, the same team that turned back NCAA champion San Beda in the finals.
Pulling off upsets in their mother league is certainly achievable now.
Meneses, however, is tempering expectations on the team, which has added pressure to perform better as this year’s hosts.
“Lumakas kami, pero lumakas rin ang ibang teams,” said Meneses, whose team’s recent showing was enough for JRU president Vincent Fabella to compare the squad to a national team in another sport.
“It’s the World Cup right now and I always feel we’re the equivalent of the Netherlands,” the concurrent league president said.
The Dutch have always fared well in previous World Cup editions, but never won a title in football’s showpiece event, coming closest in 2010 when the Oranje finished runner up behind Spain.
Just like the Netherlands, JRU owns a long title drought, in fact the longest among active teams in men’s basketball, which the Shaw-based school last ruled in 1972.
Breaking the dry spell may not happen this year, but with a stronger lineup, the Bombers are once again viewed as threats.