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With modest expectations, Tigers out to pull off surprises

MANILA, Philippines – For all the on and off-court challenges of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers heading into this season, they will compete.

Like UE, they are flying under the radar. And that might help them because with expectations not at a high, they could pull some surprises here and there. It will allow them to a certain extent to perform.

What makes that possible is that they have some very good pieces on this team. Shooting guard Jordan Sta. Ana is a huge addition after he transferred from UE. He will eventually become this team’s King Tiger as he can score and is fearless. We saw that when he played in high school for Colegio de San Benildo in Antipolo and later National University, which recruited him after spotting him in the MMBL and the NBTC.

And there’s Steve Akomo, who will give UST a rim protector and a scoring force inside. His presence should allow the graduating Jeepy Faundo to strut his stuff after teasing through the years with some huge dunks.

These two were crucial to UST’s summer campaign. And if it all works out, Sta. Ana and Akomo will also leave room for Regie Boy Basibas and Justin Araña. And if Marvin Lee decides he’d rather play basketball than engage in roughhousing, then these Growling Tigers could compete.

It’s also good to see Zach Huang get some major minutes in the pre-season. He is the type of mobile forward who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. And if he rediscovers his midrange jumper that worked for him while in high school for Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, he will really open things up for UST.

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This is a team in transition as the holdovers from their last title appearance have slowly graduated. Some of the players struggled with major minutes after years of sitting on the bench. But the time between the summer leagues and the UAAP is time enough to develop. That they picked up a tournament trophy in the provinces shows signs of potential.

If this team can pick up some early wins, that will boost their confidence. 

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