IS National University a better team now than the Bulldogs are without Bobby Ray Parks?
The comparisons became inevitable when the Bulldogs gained the early lead in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament with a 4-1 win-loss record in their first season without two-time league MVP Bobby Ray Parks, who has moved on after three seasons with the team.
A record-setting 62-25 win over the sorry Adamson Falcons on Wednesday only heightened the debate, with Spin.ph readers putting forward the opinion that Bulldogs are playing better because they have become a better 'team' in the true sense of the word.
That's not to say, however, that Parks was not a team player during his time with the Bulldogs. The son of the legendary PBA import, in fact, has time and again sacrificed his offense to work under the team concept.
But pundits, like ABS-CBN Sports analyst Allan Gregorio, feel Parks' departure has allowed other Bulldogs to come into their own, among them Troy Rosario and fellow big man Alfred Aroga, who failed to play last season due to eligibility issues.
The much-improved Rosario is the team’s leading scorer at this point of the season with a 12.4-point average while grabbing 8.2 rebounds a game. Aroga, meanwhile, leads the league in rebounding with nine per outing while scoring 10.2 points a game.
“Aroga is such a presence inside and their bigs can play multiple positions," said Gregorio, who is also the coach of the University of the Philippines high school team in the UAAP. "I like how Troy Roasio is being used by coach Eric (Altamirano). He has great range.”
For his part, Far Eastern University coach Nash Racela doesn’t want to categorically say NU is better without Parks, but acknowledged that team play has been the key for the Bulldogs' success so far this season.
“It’s not that they are a better team right now. It’s just that they’re playing better basketball as a team, which makes them unpredictable and harder to defend,” said Racela, whose team will face NU on August 9.
Altamirano couldn't emphasize enough the Bulldogs' search for a new identity in the year after Parks' departure, saying team basketball and defense have become NU's mantra.
The numbers bear out NU's renewed focus on defense. Prior to the Adamson game, NU were already giving up a league-low 54 points per game whle holding opponents to 32.1 percent shooting.
“Hindi naman kami offensive team. We rely on sheer defense,” said Altamirano.
But Altamirano declined to compare this year’s team to the NU teams back when Parks was still the leader of the Bulldogs pack, saying it is too early to make any judgment.
“Being number one kasi, you can’t press on that. The season is very unpredictable. You could go (number) one or seven in a span of two games. What’s important is we have to be consistent. Every game is important,” he said.