SUNNY days may have been few and far between for the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers last UAAP season, but head coach Aldin Ayo is convinced that this year's roster will finally bring them to the limelight.
Ahead of Season 82, UST boasts a lineup bolstered by talented newcomers such as Rhenz Abando from Pangasinan, Beninese center Soulemane Chabi Yo from San Lorenzo, Brent Paraiso from La Salle, former Tiger Cub Mark Nonoy, and ex-Mapua star Sherwin Concepcion.
"We are more confident this season because we have a more decent lineup. Maraming transferees na ang eligible to play," said Ayo, who also shared that the squad had started training as early as November last year, with a focus on individual skills.
According to him, his players' development — plus more defined roles and better chemistry — will be the foundation for greater team success.
Despite their lack of tuneup games and preseason tournaments, Ayo guaranteed that the structure and style of play of the Growling Tigers are already set: "Kulang kami sa laro, but the system is in place. We have been consistent in executing those plays, both offensive and defensive."
Proof of which is the current lineup turning back the UST Alumni, 95-87, in an exhibition game on Thursday at the UST Quadricentennial Pavillion.
Chabi Yo led the squad with 29 points and 13 rebounds, while Abando and CJ Cansino combined for 31. On the other side, alumnus Allein Maliksi of the Blackwater Elite paced his fellow graduates with 27.
Ayo said of the opportunity, "Malaking bagay 'to sa amin, dahil matsa-challenge kami to face professional players na higher level in terms of competition. At the same time, na-i-introduce din kami sa community, especially sa mga bago."