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UP Maroons are for real this time

MANILA, Philippines — You have heard it so often that it kind of offers false hope before crashing as a dud. But make no mistake: it really looks like the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons are for real. No more false starts.


They have stocked this team with quality and talent.  

There are three crucial additions to three key positions.

They have that stud of a point guard in Jun Manzo (who transferred from Cebu), and he provides toughness, an outside threat, and this is perhaps the most crucial — leadership and the ability to pass. Yep, they have had enough of the “points” guards who shoot first, shoot second and pass third. That allows Paul Desiderio to do what he does best — score despite being undersized. It allows Diego Dario and Kyles Lao to shoot. And it makes the forwards and centers the recipient of gimmes.

Second is the moving of Juan Gomez Di Liaño. He can play the two or three spot. He can get to the rim. He can fly, finish the break and well become an impact player. He is exciting. The sort of player UP has not had since…. Well, I don’t know. Have they had one?

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And there’s Ibrahim Quattara who is warming the seat for Bright Akhuetie. Make no mistake, Quattara is no Alinko Mbah, Cheick Kone or Lionel Tekoudjou. He is a rim protector. He is the active sort who can give La Salle’s Ben Mbala trouble.

And crucial to this team’s makeup is the vast improvement of Noah Webb. I wasn’t particularly impressed with this lad during his time in De La Salle Zobel or in his rookie year with UP. But boy oh boy has he made strides these past few months. He has the stinginess and relentlessness of older brother Joshua Webb but with better offense. Can you say x-factor? Is this why he has replaced Andrew Harris on the bench?

You cannot really say they are thin upfront. Jerson Prado looks to have recovered that fight in him pre-injury. Gelo Vito is that player who, when hot, can take the opposing big man outside and open up the floor for teammates.

This team is hungry. They have confidence and they know they have a good team. Hunger and confidence. Now all they need to do is get those wins.  

The Fighting Maroons have done well in the preseason the past few years. They have also taken some early victories in the UAAP before backsliding. So they will closely monitor this especially since two of their first three opponents (UST and UE) aren’t expected to rate well this season.

However, there is genuine excitement and hope because head coach Bo Perasol has come in and done well. It has worked thus far in the year and plus months he’s been on the bench.

If they do well in the first round that should give them a massive dose of confidence. And that will rub off on everyone. Why wait for next year when there is this year?

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