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Looking at JRU Heavy Bombers

When I took my first look at this year’s Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, my first thought was, “What if Jaycee Asuncion, Michael Mabulac, and Philip Paniamogan were still on this team?” Or better yet, “What if Jordan Dela Paz, Paolo Pontejos, and Abdel Poutouochi played on last year’s squad?”

JRU finished third last season. I really thought that Asuncion and Paniamogan pulled their fat out of the fire on many an occasion. Had they a few more parts to boost their chances, I would wager they would have made it as far as the finals.

And that brings me to this year.

Before I break that down further, the Heavy Bombers shoot for their third win in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup when take on the University of San Jose Recoletos Jaguars at 11:45am at the San Juan Arena on Wednesday, April 29.

The Vergel Meneses-coached JRU squad edged FEU, 57-55, in their Group A opener then held off the College of Saint Benilde, 72-66, last Monday.

Meneses now counts on its pair of high-scoring guards Paolo Pontejos and Teytey Teodoro, forward Marco Balagtas, and center Abdel Poutouochi to lead their team.

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However, here comes that obligatory “but”…

FEU wasn’t complete as Mark Belo didn’t play. Maybe the Tamaraws were feeling their way around but they sure didn’t look as fluid as they were when they had Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy, Ron Dennison, and Anthony Hargrove (when the spirit moved him) in uniform.

College of Saint Benilde is good but have had problems closing out endgames.

Yes, it is early in the season, but they need some players to really step up. In the past two matches, Meneses would sometimes go to a four-guard line-up with Pontejos, Teodoro, Gio Lasquety, and Dave Sanchez. You can pull that off against teams like Perpetual Help or even Benilde but not against a frontline-heavy San Beda squad that is going for six straight NCAA Seniors crowns.

Marco Balagtas is contributing. But they miss their back-to-the-basket player in Mabulac. Balagtas, Poutouochi, and Abdul Razak simply aren’t post-up players.

That showed in their nerve-wracking win over the College of Saint Benilde as the Heavy Bombers curiously kept flubbing possessions by giving the ball to their African players when they have either poor dribbling skills or suspect decision making. They shouldn’t make their Africans the option on offense. Let them scavenge for the ball and put them back. That makes it more difficult to guard them.

The Heavy Bombers already lack ceiling and they are missing Jed Salaveria from the lineup. Nick Abanto and Ervin Grospe should help but they seem to more natural threes than fours or fives. Jordan Dela Paz? Haven’t seen the all-around form that he flashed last summer before he got cut due to grades. Maybe Meneses should call for an all-points bulletin because Dela Paz has gone missing (or at least his game has).

Like I said about Perpetual Help’s Fab Four last year, you can steal a game here and there against some taller and heavily-favored teams but in a long series? No way. And I think that their barometer should be San Beda. I don’t think making the finals is a victory or a high-point. San Beda is vulnerable still. They don’t have that great a bench. Just a very good starting five with some key players off the bench who are mainly guards. JRU can match up there but it’s in the frontline where they will have problems.

But that is why you play the pre-season – to get better and to tinker around. Like I said last season, it is great to see Vergel Meneses grow as a coach. Maybe this team will learn from last season’s mistakes.

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