No let-up for agitated Karim Abdul: 'Coach De la Cruz doesn't have players who have heart to play'
Karim Abdul is frustrated at his teammates as the Tigers suffer their fifth loss in nine outings. Jerome Ascano

WITH the growing frustration at University of Santo Tomas, discussions have shifted to the coaching change at the Tigers camp as the back-to-back finalists suddenly find themselves on the brink of early elimination.

But UST’s main man Karim Abdul refused to point to the switch from champion mentor Pido Jarencio to the rookie coach Bong de la Cruz as the reason for their struggles, instead firing again at teammates for “lack of heart.”

“Coach Pido has his ways. Coach Bong has his ways. For me, they are both good coaches,” said Abdul, who had 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Tigers’ loss to the Far Eastern University Tamaraws on Saturday.

“Coach Pido was lucky that he had Jeric Teng, Jeric Fortuna, and other players who have the heart. Coach Bong is not too lucky. He doesn’t have players who have the heart to play,” said Abdul.

Abdul had earlier called out his teammates for failing to deliver, before the Cameroonian import made a U-turn and issued an apology.

Now Abdul is at it again, as the Tigers remain stuck at the bottom half of the standings in Season 77 of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament with a 4-5 card and in danger of missing the semifinals for the first time since 2010.

“Wala tayong pride,” said Abdul, noting that teammates have failed to play with the three Ps Jarencio tried to instill in them — puso, pride, and palaban — during his seven years as head coach.

With still five games in the schedule, de la Cruz remains optimistic although the Tigers’ chances are getting slimmer as they are two games behind of fourth-running National University.

“Hindi pa naman tapos eh. Meron pa kaming remaining games. Kailangan lang namin mag-bounce back at i-motivate ’yung mga bata,” said de la Cruz. 

While Abdul pointed out that pride and heart have been missing, De la Cruz said the Tigers’ problems this year is the lack of offensive production.

“’Yung offense namin talagang down this year. Parang tentative ’yung movement nila. Kailangan i-improve lang namin ’yung offense namin,” said Dela Cruz.

Compounding the Tigers’ woes is the absence of Kevin Ferrer due to a fractured left hand.

With Ferrer out against FEU, only Abdul and Louie Vigil scored in double figures with veteran Aljon Mariano failing to score a single point and noticeably missing the entire fourth period on Saturday.

“Kevin Ferrer is Kevin Ferrer. Malaking tulong siya defensively and offensively. Kailangan mag-step up ’yung mga veterans. Sila ang ineexpect ko,” said de la Cruz.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports