UAAP 81 Preview: Retooled NU Bulldogs a dangerous squad

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
UAAP 81 Preview: Retooled NU Bulldogs a dangerous squad
The National University Bulldogs have the pieces to make it to the Final Four this UAAP Season 81.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV

UAAP Season 80 record: 5-9
Key losses: Jayjay Alejandro, Jordan Bartlett, Chino Mosqueda, Nico Abatayo, Tzaddy Rangel, JP Cauilan, Theo Flores
Additions: Troy Rike, Dave Ildefonso, John Lloyd Clemente, John Galinato, Shaun Ildefonso, Michael Malonzo
Returning players: JV Gallego and Meds Salim

If you look at all of Jamike Jarin’s team’s from Ateneo High School to San Beda College, they have always done much better in their second year. If you ask me, this team is dangerous. You cannot take them lightly. 

Well done. Now let’s look at them.

Talk about a blood transfusion

These National University Bulldogs have received a massive makeover. You can see that this team has the makings of a very good one. They took a big hit when they lost starting point guard Chino Mosqueda, who in my opinion is a top player because he reinvented his game from a scoring two guard to a defensive specialist and to a point guard. That shows his flexibility and his potential. And he can hit big shots. But a knee injury during a tourney in China saw him out for the season, and that will give Enzo Joson and the graduating Rev Diputado more playing time. Well, with the lines blurred about conventional point guards, they have JLC (John Lloyd Clemente), Dave Ildefonso and John Galinato to bring up that ball. 

But NU also has the benefit of a good feeder system. With Goldwyn Monteverde handling the high school program, we’re seeing some good recruits coming up from either NU or Chiang Kai Shek. We’re also seeing the benefit of Jarin’s association with Ateneo and his national team days.

The Bulldogs have done well with their program. Yet in my opinion, the difference is they have brought in winners. People, coaches and players who know how to win. The recruitment of Dave Ildefonso and Troy Rike are massive coups. It increases the profile not only of the team, but also the school. 

In Dave Ildefonso and John Lloyd Clemente, NU has a pair of big-time players

Holy Dynamic Duo, Batman! NU has a pair of studs who can get it done on both ends of the floor. And they’ll be there for the next five years. 

Even during his years in Ateneo High School, it was obvious that Dave was going to be a special player. He can score, rebound, play defense and pass. Plus, he is a crunch time and big-time player. He reinforced that during the Blue Eaglets’ title run last season and from the FIBA Under-17 Championships. During the summer leagues, he showed no fear.

He can score and at times he gets tunnel vision where he only sees the basket. We saw how Jarin would call him out for that. When Dave figures it out— that exact moment to make that pass, this will make him an even better player.

Now, it isn’t all about Dave because Clemente is a winner in his own right. Except he has figured it out. He has an incredible feel for the game. He doesn’t force his shot, is steady, and doesn’t make too many mistakes. 

Troy Rike the X-factor

Everyone raved about the former Wake Forest Deacon’s play with Gilas. And now, he’s bringing that to NU. Now that’s a very good three-headed monster up front with Issa Gaye and Matt Aquino. All three can hit the outside shot and play inside. This will draw opposing bigs out and open up the lane for the Ildefonso brothers and JLC (not to mention Joson).

Rike’s addition gives the team more confidence because they know they will have a force inside and out to help them. 

The Mad Scientist at the hot seat

If Jarin can recreate the success he’s had with Ateneo and San Beda over here, he will make an even bigger name for himself. It is easy to say that Ateneo and San Beda have had programs that have been up and running. They have won before and even after him. Of course, that is life. NU has won before Jarin’s arrival. The question is, can he win another for the school? That is not going to be easy as former coach Eric Altamirano found out.

If this team can play that frenetic team defense that Jarin wants, it will give him a chance. 

But make no mistake, there is pressure on Jarin. I can only hope the school has patience because I believe they have one of the best coaches around. 

This team went from one big shot player in Jayjay Alejandro to having several. There’s Ildefonso who will be a superstar, Clemente and Galinato. Not to mention Rike. Rike’s addition — even as a one and done player — adds height, smarts and big-game experience. His presence will help out Gaye at center and vault this team from a middle of the pack team to a bonafide Final Four contender.

I think they went from being under the radar to being on the radar. Playing below the radar in my opinion helps them because expectations (well, I don’t know about their team management) aren’t much. But after the addition of Rike… now there are expectations. Will anything less than a Final Four finish will be a massive disappointment? It could be.

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