De La Salle Green Archers: UAAP Season 78 Primer
Dying seconds of the do-or-die game versus FEU. The ball game was tied. Mike Tolomia has the ball. He drove hard to the basket. Instead of going all the way for a contested layup, he found Mac Belo, wide open for a corner 3. What happened next, even though that happened last year, during a rainy October evening, still hurts, and it will always hurt for the entire La Salle community….
After winning the UAAP championship back in 2013, many of the so-called experts tagged the DLSU Green Archers as the heavy favorites to win the 2014 UAAP championship. But La Salle started the season flat, with a loss to FEU during the opener. The Archers suffered another painful loss, this time to arch- rivals Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles to start the season 0-2. Fortunately, DLSU bounced back and won the remaining first round games to end the first round with a solid 5-2 record.
The Archers started the second round against rivals Ateneo. This time, it was the green crowd that went home happy, as King Archer Jeron Teng exploded for 32 points as La Salle defeated Ateneo. That was the highlight of the second round, as the Archers showed inconsistency during that round. La Salle had solid wins against UP and UST. But DLSU once again lost to FEU then struggled to get a win against the hapless Adamson Falcons. La Salle then dropped a crucial game against UE, making the last game of the elimination round against NU a must win game, to ensure a Final Four slot and a playoff for the coveted twice-to-beat advantage. Fortunately, La Salle defeated NU to end the elimination round with a 10-4 record to formally make it to the Final Four, and that setup a virtual best of three series against FEU.
The Naked Truth, Typhoon Mario and Dengue
Days before the big playoff game for the twice-to-beat advantage, Jeron Teng was hospitalized due to dengue. The Naked truth fashion was supposed to be on a Friday that week, unfortunately, due to Typhoon Mario, that event was postponed to the following day, Saturday. The first game of the virtual best of three series happened during that Sunday. Are these factors? Excuses, what ifs, some say they are part of life. But some would say, the only thing that matters is the results. And the bottom line, the Naked Truth, is that La Salle lost to FEU during that first game of the series, and lost the twice-to-beat advantage. With a full week of rest before game 2, DLSU bounced back and dominated FEU to force a do or die game. Then, during what turned out to be the final game of DLSU for the season, Mac Belo happened.
PCCL 2014 and Fil-Oil 2015
La Salle had another title to defend that year, the PCCL National Championship. Unfortunately, La Salle lost that title too, as the San Beda Red Lions swept La Salle in the PCCL finals. A year that started with so much optimism ended on a sour note. And it was more of the same during the 2015 Fil-Oil Summer League. La Salle went all the way to the finals. DLSU defeated UST in a do-or-die game thanks to a Jeron Teng game winning lay up to make it to the quarterfinals. During the quarterfinals, Jeron Teng dished out a bullet pass to Jason Perkins, who converted the game winning shot as DLSU defeated Perpetual to make it to the semi-finals. La Salle then dominated UAAP tormentors FEU in the semi-finals to make it to the finals against San Beda. Unfortunately, San Beda dominated DLSU in the finals, as La Salle failed to defend all three championships.
Subtractions: Arnold Van Opstal, Almond Vosotros, Norbert Torres, Yutien Andrada, Terrence Mustre, Matt Salem, Kib Montalbo (injury)
Almond Vosotros, Norbert Torres and Yutien Andrada had all played the last year of eligibility last season. All 3 of them got drafted in the recent PBA draft. Arnold Van Opstal decided to skip his final year of eligibility to heal his injury and then to prepare for an eventual PBA career. Terrence Mustre transferred to Adamson while Matt Salem transferred to National University. KIb Montalbo suffered an unfortunate ACL injury during the summer and will sit out this season.
Additions: Andrei Caracut, Jollo Go, John Gob, Amiel Joson, Andrew Langston, Larry Muyang, Lorenzo Navarro, Daryl Pascual, Joshua Torralba
There are 9 rookies for the Archers this year, that’s right, 9! Andrei Caracut was the most impressive rookie during the FIL-OIL league. He was even named to the Mythical Five of the said tournament. He is a sharpshooter and is expected to contribute immediately for the Archers. Jollo Go, John Gob and Lorenzo Navarro all had memorable high school careers. They got some taste of playing time during the summer, but it is yet to be seen if they can crack the rotation for the UAAP. Larry Muyang, Daryl Pascual and Joshua Toralba are all “non-frosh” rookies. Muyang served his residency after years in the training pool of other college teams. He is a wide-bodied big man, and he can be the enforcer type that the Archers needs. Torralba actually played in the PCCL last year. This former EAC General is also expected to contribute immediately for the green and white. Pascual was actually in the FIL-OIL lineup of DLSU for 2014, but it was decided that he needs more seasoning with the DLSU Team B. He has a chance to crack the rotation and be an able frontcourt player for DLSU. Amiel Joson and Andrew Langston are the “surprise” rookies, as they did not play during the Fil-Oil tournament. Lasallians are hoping that they are the “pleasant” type of surprise.
Holdovers: Jason Perkins, Prince Rivero, Julian Sargent, Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, Abu Tratter
There are only 6 veterans for the Archers for this season. None of them are in their 5th playing year, and three of them are actually sophomores. Jason Perkins is expected to be the starting power forward this season. Expect a big year for Perkins; he might even end up as the second best player of the Archers for this year. Sophomores Prince Rivero, Julian Sargent and Abu Tratter are all expected to step up this season. Rivero’s experience with the Gilas Cadets would serve him well in the UAAP. Sargent might get more playing time this season, as he can play the 1/2/3 positions. And with the unexpected departure of AVO, and the disappointing scenario with Ben Mballa, Abu Tratter might just be the starting center of DLSU for this season. With Kib Montalbo out, and with the other guards being rookies, Thomas Torres is expected to get the lion’s share of playing time for the point guard position. Thomas missed a lot of games last season due to injury, and this senior guard out of LSGH would look to bounce back and prove that he is the point guard that La Salle needs to get back to the top. But, of course, if La Salle wants to win the championship this year, they would need a huge year from this guy….
King Archer Jeron Teng has a memorable college career so far. He won the rookie of the year during season 75. He led DLSU to the championship back in 2013, and won the Finals MVP in the process. Statistically, he had a great season last year, as he was an MVP contender. He is expected to be an MVP contender for this season once again. But the question is, can he lead DLSU to one (or two?) more titles before he moves up to the PBA? Let us compare his career to other recent King Archers. He can never tie Ren Ren Ritualo for a 4-peat, but Mac Cardona, Joseph Yeo and JV Casio “only” had 2 championships (well, technically just one, but that is a different topic) during their college careers. He still got a chance to tie, or even surpass them. DLSU basketball is all about winning championships, and Jeron would need to win a few more rings in order to solidify his legacy as a King Archer. And that is the Naked Truth.
It is hard to expect for anything for this season. Sometimes, when we expect things, we just get hurt in the end. Unlike last year when DLSU were the heavy favorites, it is a wide-open race this year. But DLSU is still a contender. So let us just take it one game at a time, one possession at a time, and enjoy the moment. And, no matter what happens, let us support our beloved DLSU no matter what.
ANIMO LA SALLE!