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All eyes on Ayo's Archers in Filoil debut

MANILA, Philippines – When the La Salle Green Archers take to the hardcourt when the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup tips off this Saturday, April 30, all eyes will be not only on their new players but also their new head coach, who comes in with a lot of expectations.

Aldin Ayo, fresh off his conquest of the NCAA Season 91 men’s basketball championship where his Letran Knights upset the six-peat seeking San Beda Red Lions, will make his debut in a league that is considered the premier college pre-season tournament in the country.

Ayo replaces Juno Sauler, who led the Green Archers to their eighth UAAP title in 2013, and he brings with him that relentless trapping defense that he learned as a player with the Knights and refined as their head coach last season.

While the zone press isn’t new to La Salle as Derrick and Franz Pumaren employed that strategy during their respective tenures, Ayo’s version is relentless as evidenced by Letran’s incredible and masterful season in the NCAA where they upset six-peat seeking San Beda.

“We’re still learning the system,” cautioned assistant coach Paulo Sauler, one of two holdovers from the previous coaching staff with the other being Siot Tanquincen. Both served under Juno Sauler, who is now with the Star Hotshots in the PBA. “But we’ll get there.”

Ayo brought over his staff from Letran, including assistants Luis Gonzales and Glenn Capacio.

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While in Letran, Ayo made use of Mark Cruz, Rey Nambatac or McJour Luib to guard the three passing lanes with athletic forward Kevin Racal playing like a free safety in the event of a long inbound pass or crosscourt pass from rapped players.

“I think we have the players to execute what coach Aldin wants,” corroborated Sauler. “We have the athletes and youth to make it work. With Ben in the line-up, he will address some of our height issues. That will free up our bigs like Abu and Larry to help grab those rebounds and do some scoring."

However, Sauler pointed to the relative youth of the team with only Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, and Kib Montalbo the only ones left from the Season 76 UAAP championship team.

“We’ve got a mostly young team with lots of potential,” he added.

The veterans will have to count on juniors Abu Tratter and Prince Rivero as well as sophomores Jollo Go, Andrei Caracut, Larry Muyang, Andrew Langston, and Jayboy Gob for support. The rookies include Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, Mark Dyke, and Brent Paraiso. Cameroonian center Ben Mbala after a two-year delay will finally make his league debut.

La Salle will make their Filoil Flying V Premier Cup debut at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan against the Pumaren-coached Adamson team that includes former Green Archer point guard Terrence Mustre, who played alongside Teng and Torres on the Season 76 champion team.

Tickets to the tournament are available at the venue gate as well as Ticketnet outlets.

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