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6 thoughts from last weekend’s UAAP matches

La Salle' Abu Tratter tries to break away from the defense of National University's Issa Gaye. | Kriz-John Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Just the first eight days, but so much has happened already in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament. Even this early, we’re seeing some things take shape.

This is a very good La Salle team 

Another statement win. Still no Ben Mbala but they beat two good teams. It is easy to say that the National University side they defeated are young and they are. However, the Green Archers have a lot of young players too. Aljun Melecio, Justine Baltazar and Ricci Rivero are sophomores. Leonard Santillan is only playing in his first year of UAAP ball (although he did. Am not sure though you can say Andrei Caracut and Jolo Go are young players as they are in their third year.

Nevertheless, head coach Aldin Ayo went to a nine-man rotation and they got the job done.

NU coach Jamike Jarin instructed his boys to stay home on the shooters. Easier said than done because players like Kib Montalbo and Melecio seem to drill one when it is most needed.

Wait til this NU team gets a bit more experience

JJ Alejandro is playing consistently. So are Issa Gaye and Matthew Aquino (who should gain some confidence as he has had two consecutive solid outings). What they need is for Dave Yu and Reggie Morido to be the same. But different players are stepping up. Jordan Bartlett showed glimpses in the pre-season (5.5 points and 1.8 assists then) and in this game, he showed what he could do when he top scored with 23 points while adding four rebounds and four assists.

Down 0-2, but UE and UST are going in different directions

Yes, a loss is a loss, but you can also look at the bright side. The UST Growling Tigers have been impressive under Boy Sablan these past two games. Before you point out to the turnovers, again…. This is a young team and they aren’t expected to be polished gems. There are exceptions but so far not this young UST squad.

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Why am I impressed? It would be easy to say they do not have the talent (they do). But whatever challenges they have, they have come out fighting. In these two games, they were right there up to the end.

I have been critical of the off-court stuff, but I am man enough to give credit where it is due. They have been interesting to watch. I know they are losing Jeepy Faundo but this team will get better. 

UE, on the other hand, is disappointing. You cannot give excuses like they play All-Filipino. So why do you? This team shouldn’t be losing like this. They had the talent but a lot of them departed for other schools. It isn’t just the players but assistants Dindo Pumaren and Nonoy Falcasantos are gone too. Their dreaded press is well non-existent as least for the two games. Watching them against UP last Sunday, I couldn’t help feel for them. For the first time, I felt Manong had no answers. No solutions to anything. They get by on Alvin Pasaol bullying his way through and Mark Maloles playing heads up ball. 

Tyrus Hill only scored three points, but that dunk on Jeepy Faundo will spread his legend

I have written that by next year when Tyrus Hill has bulked up a bit (so he can finish stronger) and after a season of UAAP experience, that tandem with Sean Manganti will be like the second coming of Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis (with a jump shot though). This kid, when he figures things out will be a top player.

Watching Paul Desiderio go nuclear is a sight to behold

Sorry, I am not a fan of Jun Manzo’s antics whether it is effective or not. As for Paul Desiderio? I’d like to see him in a shootout with Aljun Melecio and Anton Asistio. What golden hands! His long range bombardment on UE pretty much took the fight out of the Red Warriors.

Ateneo is relentless.

When the Blue Eagles took on San Beda in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup, they looked far from what they are. Obviously, because they practiced and trained late and were not in the shape they wanted to be. I’d love to see them play each other now.

I thought that the way they defended FEU was great. But you have to give credit to FEU because they fought back ran their sets. That’s a sign of a good system. But Ateneo has been the most fun to watch thus far with their relentlessness. Everyone getting playing time and contributing.

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