Will Tigers growl under new coach?

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Last year’s runner-up University of Santo Tomas Tigers clearly lost fangs with the graduation of their Big Three Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag and Karim Abdul.

But new coach Boy Sablan, a Glowing Goldie in the 1980s and one of Pido Jarencio’s assistants in UST’s last title run in 2006, feels the current pack can still growl and contend again.

“We’ll be competitive,” said Sablan, who has at his disposal 12 holdovers led by co-captains Louie Vigil and Kent Lao.

“Actually, experienced na itong mga ito, iyun nga lang most of them andun sa bench pero andun sila sa UAAP. Iyun ang pagkakaiba, at least alam nila yung game sa UAAP kahit nasa bench (Although they spent most time on the bench, they’re experienced on how things are in the UAAP). I’m giving them the playing time this year and they’re eager to prove their worth.”

Vigil, the fourth wheel in UST’s Season 78 run, almost didn’t make it this year. The league initially lowered the age limit from 25 to 24, affecting the former Jose Rizal Light Bomber, but rescinded the ruling later on, giving Vigil a new stab at UAAP glory.

“Malaking bagay kasi veteran siya. Si Louie ang captain ball namin, siya yung talagang leader ng team na magdadala this year (Vigil’s eligibility is crucial for us because he is a veteran. As captain, we expect him to lead the team),” said Sablan.

Marvin Lee, Mario Bonleon, Zachary Huang and Renzo Subido are also back in the Tigers’ lair. The UAAP LXXIX hosts also parade four rookies in 6-foot-6 Ghanaian William Afoakwah, 6-foot-9 Fil-Japanese Tsutomu Tateishi, Jason Strait from Arellano and Oliver de Guzman from National U.

Sablan, who took over from Bong dela Cruz, had merely three months to make his wards adapt to his fast-paced offense/defense-oriented system.

“Maganda naman ang improvement kahit limited time ang preparation, matatalino itong mga bata naka-adapt naman sila sa sistema na gusto ko (These boys are smart and they were able to adapt to the system even with the limited time of preparations,” said Sablan, who sent his crew to Cebu and Taiwan for tune-up matches.

Vigil recalls the very words Sablan told him upon assuming coaching chores: “Andito ako para mag-champion (I’m here to win a championship).”




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