Can NU Bulldogs repeat as UAAP champs without Betayene, Rosario, Khobuntin? Coach responds
While the NU Bulldogs will lose key players henri Betayene, Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin, Ateneo is expected to get stronger with Jerie Pingoy and other foreign recruits while La Salle's Ben Mbala will be eligible to play next season. Jerome Ascano

DOES National University have what it takes to make it back-to-back?

It still remains to be seen but in order for the Bulldogs to win a second straight championship, they have to do it without four of their big men including Most Improved Player Troy Rosario and back-up center Henri Betayene.

“Butas na butas talaga kami (next season),” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “We don’t know kung sino ang ipapalit namin.”

Aside from Betayene and Rosario, the Bulldogs will also play in Season 78 without reliable veteran Glenn Khobuntin and Tristan Perez.

The four losses will definitely affect the strength of the Bulldogs in their title defense next year especially with the other teams expected to be stronger including Ateneo and La Salle, which will have high profile players such as Blue Eagle Jerie Pingoy and Green Archer Ben Mbala already eligible next season.

“Definitely, we are going to be less competitive next year,” Altamirano said.

However, Altamirano stressed he is not downplaying the Bulldogs’ title chances next year especially after they won Season 77 crown without their top players Bobby Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe, their leading scorers from the season before.

Gelo Alolino still has one year remaining for the Bulldogs and along with Finals MVP will Alfred Aroga will be tasked to lead a young core that includes J-jay Alejandro, Kyle Neypes, Nico Javelona, and Rev Diputado. Jeff Javillonar is also set to return next year after a season-ending ACL injury during the offseason. NU also has a deep pool in Team B.

“Who knows? This year, akala namin pupulutin lang kami sa kangkungan. So you’ll never know. Maybe this player will step up, another player will step up,” said Altamirano.

Winning Season 77 will also go a long way for the Bulldogs’ chances next year.

“For us, winning the title is a breakthrough. Just like Ateneo and La Salle, when they won the championship, it was a breakthrough. I hope this is just the start. The culture should be there and winning tradition is there,” said Altamirano.

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