MANILA, Philippines - The UAAP hopes to build on the league’s success the previous year as it looks forward to a competitive and well-attended Season 76, which kicks off action on June 29 at MOA Arena.
“We’re expecting to meet or even surpass the achievements of last year,” said UAAP Season 76 secretary-treasurer Malou Isip of host Adamson during yesterday’s PSA Forum.
The league enjoyed a banner Season 75 with the usual big attendance in crowd-drawer men’s basketball spilling over to women’s volleyball, which saw a record 19,000 in one La Salle-Ateneo game.
“We’re quite confident (of meeting this objective) because every year, people are looking forward to the UAAP. They say we’re the No. 1, most prestigious league,” Isip said.
The Adamson athletic director bared that the university is preparing a “spectacular opening” on June 29 with two esteemed alumni, Hector Calma and Kenneth Duremdes, as special guests. Isip won’t elaborate on the details but hinted that performers will adopt a “Hunger Games”-type number.
The opening rites are set at 12:30 p.m. with new-look Far Eastern and Filoil pre-season champ University of the East setting off hostilities at 2 p.m. and last year’s runner-up Santo Tomas and La Salle tangling at 4 p.m. The next day, it will be Adamson versus University of the Philippines and defending champion Ateneo against NU.
In recognition of the drawing capacity of the volleybelles, Isip expressed the possibility that the opening weekend of volleyball in November might be staged in a big venue like MOA or Araneta.
Season 76 will see the implementation of the two-year residency rule for high school graduates of one UAAP school intending to transfer to another UAAP school for college ball, which has sparked controversy and debate. Taekwondo’s poomsae event, a demo last year, has also been promoted into a regular event.
Former PBA star Chito Loyzaga will take over as commissioner, to be assisted by Ato Badolato. Loyzaga met with coaches of the eight teams the other day and discussed how officiating will go. Adamson coach Leo Austria said the mentors had requested that they be granted an extra timeout in the fourth quarter, apart from the two regular timeouts allotted in the payoff period.
Competition in centerpiece men’s basketball looms as a free-for-all, with holders Ateneo losing key players from their four-peat-winning crew and the rest beefing up.
“I think this season will be exciting, a wide-open race where any team can beat any team,” said Austria, explaining that the pre-season showcased how tough the field has become.
The Falcons themselves feel they have a shot at a Final Four.
“Our expectations are high because our Cameroonian import, 6-foot-8, Ingrid Sewa, will play now to complement holdovers Jericho Cruz, Roider Cabrera and Rodney Brondial. And with our performance in the preseason, I think we’ve earned the respect of the other teams,” said Austria.
The league will start its cage hostilities earlier than usual to give way to the Fiba Asia Championship that the country will host on Aug. 1-11. The first round will end on July 28 and the second round will only commence on Aug. 14.
“The SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) requested for a break during the Fiba tourney and the UAAP granted it. We’ll only hold other non-televised sports during that period,” said Isip.