Mean Green Archers solid pick in UAAP

By Olmin Leyba | Updated Tuesday July 08, 2014 - 12:00am
Coaches join hands during the launch of UAAP Season 77 at Gloria Maris at Gateway, Araneta Center yesterday. They are (from left) La Salle’s Juno Sauler, Derrick Pumaren of UE, Adamson’s Kenneth Duremdes, Bong dela Cruz of UST, Eric Altamirano of NU, Uri Escueta, who represented of Bo Perasol of Ateneo and Nash Racela of FEU. Not in photo is UP’s Rey Madrid. Story on Col. 1  JOEY MENDOZA

MANILA, Philippines - Practically spared of the exodus of key players that has besieged the opposition, full-bodied titlist La Salle will enter the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball wars with a big bull's eye mark on its back.

Coaches picked La Salle as the overwhelming "team-to-beat" in the tournament that starts Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, citing the return of an intact cast from the crew that lorded it over the field last year.

"La Salle is still the heavy favorites. I think they have a better lineup this year," Far Eastern coach Nash Racela said during yesterday's launch of the country's premier varsity league.

"It's obvious La Salle is still the team to beat - they have the experience, they have players who know how to win, and they have a good coach," said National U mentor Eric Altamirano.

Ateneo assistant coach Yuri Escueta went as far as saying La Salle is "going to be the barometer for this season."

Rivals have good reason to rank the Taft-based cagers high. Only one mainstay of the champion team - guard LA Revilla - is gone while stalwarts Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Thomas Torres, Norbert Torres, Arnold van Opstal and Almond Vosotros are back for another shot at the coveted title. The Archers also acquired blue-chip recruits in Terrence Mustre, Julian Sargent, Abu Tratter and Prince Rivero.

In contrast, the rest of the field lost their main men or go-to guys either because they graduated or decided to pursue a pro career. Among them were runner-up Santo Tomas (Jeric Teng), Final Four qualifier FEU (MVPs Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia), semifinalist NU (two-time MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr.), and Adamson (Jericho Cruz).

Former champ Ateneo will parade an even younger squad than the one that missed the Final Four last season after a five-year dynasty, while host University of the East will parade only eight holdovers, four of whom "didn't see significant minutes the past season," according to new coach Derrick Pumaren.

Meanwhile, the Falcons will have 11 rookies, per new mentor Kenneth Duremdes, while University of the Philippines will field a rookie-laden roster as well.

Amid the hoopla and high expectations, La Salle mentor Juno Sauler tries his best to make his wards keep their feet on the ground and focus on the task at hand.

 "I don't focus too much on expectations and what the future will be for us according to the opinion of others. It's still day-by-day. Getting better and performing every game, that's more important than the expectations," said Sauler.

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UAAP Season 77 kicks off at Smart Araneta
ADMU Blue Eagles 11 3
FEU Tamaraws 11 4
DLSU Green Archers 10 5
NU Bulldogs 10 5
UE Red Warriors 9 6
UST Growling Tigers 5 9
UP Maroons 1 13
AdU Falcons 1 13


Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 @ Smart Araneta Coliseum
3:00 PM - Men's Finals Game 2