Upbeat Maroons target six wins under new coach

MANILA, Philippines - Host University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons enter the UAAP Season 78 men's basketball tournament confident of making a major turnaround from their one-win, 13-loss card the previous year.

"It's encouraging. We're very optimistic about the team this year. The boys have shown big improvement and the results of tune-up games have been good. We're very positive," said UP College of Human Kinetics dean Ronnie Dizer.

Former pro Rensy Bajar has been tapped to call the shots for the new-look Fighting Maroons, who have enjoyed a productive pre-season spiked by their triumph in the Filsports Basketball Association.

Holdovers JR Gallarza, Henry Asilum, Diego Dario and Paul Desiderio and comebacking Jett Manuel will team up with greenhorns Felix Jaboneta, Noah Webb, and French African-Cheick Kone.

"We just want to be back on the winning track. If we win five, six games, that's already a good start. We've set a realistic, attainable goal for now. But we also hope and pray that we'll over-achieve," said Dizer.

The Maroons, who will also parade a new logo featuring a closed fist, will kick off their bid against University of the East in the season's opening game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The other Day One match will pit University of Santo Tomas against Adamson at 4 p.m.

The league officially launches Season 78 today.

Before the opener, the board also convenes to discuss other matters, which will likely include the eligibility case of Ateneo recruit Hubert Cani.

A high school standout from National U, Cani was declared ineligible this season but Ateneo is expected to make an appeal following last week's signing of the Student Athlete Protection measure. The new law effectively scrapped the controversial two-year residency rule on transferring high school students.

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