Primer: DLSU Green Archers Season 79
Will the heavily favored Green Archers reclaim the crown? Or will it be another letdown from the Green and White?
UAAP Season 78 review
To say that the previous UAAP Season 78 was a disappointing one for the De La Salle Green Archers is an understatement. As usual, the Archers were expected to contend for the crown. Jeron Teng was surrounded by talented veterans and several blue chipper rookies, and that team was expected to breeze to the Final Four then take it from there.
The Archers were inconsistent during the first round, as they ended the round with a 4-3 record. It was a decent record, still good enough to contend for the Final Four, but for La Salle standards, it was not enough. The highlight of the 1st round was a big win against rivals Ateneo, which gave confidence to the La Salle community that we can go deep into the playoffs.
But the second round was a huge disappointment for the Green Archers. DLSU was only able to win 2 games during the second round. There was an upset loss against Adamson that started the doubt for some Lasallians if we can make it to the Final Four. There was that loss against Ateneo that severely demoralized the team. And in the final game of the elimination round, La Salle lost to FEU in a do-or-die game for the Archers to miss the Final Four for the first time in the Jeron Teng era.
The off-season and the “Summer of Dominance”
Enough is enough and it is time for a change. Coach Juno Sauler resigned. For sentimental reasons, a lot of lasallians hoped that La Salle legend Coach Franz Pumaren would make a return to Taft Avenue, but he eventually went to Adamson University, and he tagged along La Salle legends Ren Ren Ritualo and Don Allado with him. In a move that surprised the local basketball community, La Salle hired a new coach that is not a lasallian. DLSU hired Letran champion coach Aldin Ayo. Coach Ayo later proved that he is the man for the job, sweeping the 2016 FIL-OIL Pre-Season cup, as his trademark “Mayhem Defense” was in effect all summer long. Ben Mbala basically swept pretty much all the awards for that tournament, winning the tournament MVP, and Jeron Teng and the much- improved Abu Tratter joined him in the Mythical Five.
Preview: DLSU Green Archers Season 79
Coaching staff: New Head Coach Aldin Ayo, assistant coach Glenn Capacio
Subtraction: Head Coach Juno Sauler, Assistant coaches Jun Limpot and Allan Caidic
Returnees: Paolo Sauler and Siot Tanquincen
The coaching staff trio of Head Coach Juno Sauler and his PBA Legends assistant coaches, former King Archer Jun Limpot and the Triggerman Allan Caidic, led DLSU to the 2013 championship. We thank them for that, but it is time to move on. Enter former Letran champion coach Aldin Ayo. Ayo just led his alma mater Letran to the NCAA championship last year, ending the dynasty of their rivals, the San Beda Red Lions. So he knows a thing or two about college rivalries. In a move that surprised the community, La Salle hired a coach who is not a lasallian for the first time in a long long time. But Ayo quickly proved his worth as the Archers dominated the premier summer league, thanks to the trademark Mayhem Defense full-court press and a very versatile offense. Of course, the UAAP is a different story, but Coach Aldin Ayo and the rest of the coaching staff are more than ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
Addition: Ben Mbala, Ricci Rivero, Aljun Melecio, Mark Dyke, Justine Baltazar, Kib Montalbo (returning from ACL injury)
“Frosh” Rookies: Ricci Rivero, Aljun Melecio and Justine Baltazar
The La Salle high school superstars decided to remain green as La Salle Green Hills Greenie Ricci Rivero and De La Salle Zobel Junior Archer Aljun Melecio went “derecho La Salle”. Ricci Rivero, the younger brother of La Salle veteran Prince Rivero, was dominant during his last year in the NCAA juniors division; however, he was suspended during the course of the season, forfeiting the MVP award.
The sweet-shooting Melecio led DLSZ to its first finals appearance since the Capacio/Elorde/De La Paz/AVO era. Melecio is being compared to current PBA player “Ant Man” Mark Cruz, who blossomed under Coach Aldin Ayo during the magical Letran championship run last season. If he can play like him, then the sky is the limit for Melecio. Off the court, Melecio made some headlines, at least for those who are interested in the off the court dealings of basketball players, by being involved in a “promposal” after a UAAP Juniors finals game, a light moment in an otherwise always heated basketball affair. The two homegrown talents just might get good playing time for their rookie seasons.
Justine Baltazar led the NU Bullpups to the UAAP Juniors championship. The original plan was for him to sit out for the year, to be acclaimed to the La Salle culture, but it seems there was a change of plans and he is raring to go and play immediately for the Archers this season. As talented as he is, it would be interesting to see if he can crack the rotation and get some playing time this season, as he didn’t play during the FIL-OIL tournament and our team is loaded with big guys who can contribute right now for the Archers.
Returning from injury: Kib Montalbo
Kib missed last season due to an unfortunate knee injury, but he is back and raring to go. He showed flashes of his old self during the pre-season. Kib is a very smart quarterback, and he can shoot as well, he can hit the mid-range jump shot and the occasional three as well. Kib was severely missed last season as the Archers seemed lost at times during UAAP Season 78 so his leadership and solid point guard duties would be viable for the green and white this year.
Mark Dyke was supposed to play for La Salle last year, but some indecision from the kid led to him being forced to sit out. Dyke had limited minutes during the FIL-OIL summer league. Hopefully, he can regain his bearing just in time for the season, he was a former superstar during his NU Bullpups day and if given the right opportunity, he just might be a key player for DLSU.
BIG. BEN. MBALA. So, where do we start? We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. First, we thought it would just be the usual 1-year sit out; then rules were changed so it became a 2-year sit out. That’s fine. But what hurts was playing in a “Ligang Labas” in Gen San that forced a 3rd year playing for Team B instead of helping us win the UAAP championship. THAT. HURTS. A. LOT. But that is water under the bridge now. Mbala flat out dominated the FILOIL Pre-Season Cup, as he swept pretty much all the awards and led DLSU to the Summer League championship. A lot of people are expecting him to dominate the UAAP and lead us to a couple of rings, but rings are not won on paper, and Big Ben needs to prove that he can dominate when it really matters and lead us back to the top where we belong.
Subtraction: Joshua Torralba, Lorenzo Navarro, Daryl Pascual, John Gob (injury)
Joshua Torralba decided to go back to US. Torralba made the girls swooned last year, and yeah, he did hit a big 3 against Ateneo to give us the first round win against Ateneo last season. John Gob played well during the pre-season, and his injury was really unfortunate, so get well soon to John and see you next season. Lorenzo Navarro decided to go back to San Sebastian. Given our loaded back court, it is not really surprising that some of our bench guards would transfer and get some playing time some where else. Daryl Pascual decided to transfer to Letran. We wish them well in their future endeavors.
Returnees: Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, Andrei Caracut, Prince Rivero, Abu Tratter, Andrew Langston, Jollo Go, Larry Muyang, Jason Perkins, Julian Sargent
“ They almost left but they returned”
Jason Perkins and Julian Sargent did not play during the FILOIL because they were not expected to come back. There were rumors that Perkins would turn pro, and because of the old rules, it was thought that Sargent has maxed out his eligibility. But things changed. Perkins had a change of heart and decided to go back to DLSU. While a sudden rule change made Julian eligible again. Sargent can play the 1/2/3 and can contribute both offensively and defensively. Hopefully, Perkins can regain his old form that made him a Mythical Five member during his rookie year.
Andrew Langston, Jollo Go and Larry Muyang had inconsistent minutes during last season and during the FILOIL league. Given the depth of the team, Go and Langston might ride the bench this season while Muyang can get some back up minutes on the front court but consistent playing time might be a challenge for him given the amount of talent of our other big guys. But anything is possible and if they work hard and enough and get their opportunities, they just might crack the regular rotation.
Andrei Caracut won the Rookie of the Year last year, one of the few bright spots of last season for the Archers, joining the club of other blue chipper Red Cubs turned Green Archers sharpshooters Ren Ren Ritualo and JV Casio. Despite the influx of new talent, Caracut is expected to get good playing time this upcoming season, and with Mbala demanding attention down low, he just might get more open shots this season.
Abu Tratter improved a lot during the pre-season, as he made it to the Mythical 5 of the FIl-OIL tournament. Some of the fans just expected him to be a good reliever at most, but nowadays, a lot of people are saying that he is now part of the “big 3” together with Big Ben and Jeron. Let’s hope that his improvement continues in the UAAP and he helps us win the title.
Prince Rivero had his share of ups and downs during his UAAP career. He had inconsistent minutes during the FILOIL because of some minor injuries. A healthy Prince can be a force to reckon with for DLSU, but given our loaded (at least, on paper) line up, it remains to be seen if Prince gets heavy minutes under the new coaching staff.
5th- year players
Thomas Torres is now a 5- year veteran. Imagine that. How time flies. Seems like it was only yesterday when he was playing for LSGH against a loaded San Beda Red Cubs team during the NCAA Juniors finals many years ago. Or during his rookie year, when he made a key steal and lay up against FEU to seal a Final Four slot. Or the time he would spell veteran LA Revilla during our championship run during 2013. He had his shares of ups and downs during the last few years. His boy next-door good looks got him his shares of endorsements, and that was met by criticism by some members of our community. Some say he shoots too much and he is not a real point guard. This is his last year, and if he wants to prove that he is PBA material, Thomas needs to show everyone that he can be a solid starting point guard for a DLSU championship team, just like LA Revilla was back in 2013 that led to a still solid pro career.
Jeron Teng is now down to his last year. Think about that for a minute. This guy made headlines during high school, teaming up with his brother Jeric for a powerhouse Xavier team. He once scored 104 points in a single game. Remember back in 2011 when we failed to make it to the Final Four? We had no legit star on that team, no real King Archer where we can just pass the ball to him, let him take over, then lead us to the playoffs. Then Jeron Teng committed to DLSU. I remember how excited the community was. Finally, we have a legit superstar that can lead us back to the top where we belong. And boy, did he lead us back to the top.
I can still remember his first FILOIL game for DLSU. He came off the bench against San Beda. And the green and white crowd just roared when he came into the game. The guy behind me shouted. “Give us 100 points”! Then in his very first possession for La Salle, he slashed and scored against the San Beda import. I knew right then that we are in good hands.
He won the Rookie of the year then the following year; he led us to the championship, winning Finals MVP in the process against his own brother in a dramatic 3-game series that captivated the imagination of this drama obsessed country. That’s it right? I mean; that’s the start of the dynasty. He would lead us to several championships. Then he became a huge star off the court. The soap opera with a famous love team, the commercials; TV appearances with his brother that was eerily similar to the era of his father during his heyday, when basketball players were showbiz stars as well. But we all now what happened next…
Jeron still put superstar like numbers during his junior and senior seasons. But anything less than a championship is a disappointment! There’s the whole Naked Truth controversy during 2014, and the Mac Belo three that sent out our back-to-back dreams crushing down the ground. Then there was more disappointment during the 2015 season, where we failed to make it to the Final Four at all. Was it Jeron’s fault? Hell no! He was clearly the best player of the Archers the last 4 years, he did his best and we wouldn’t even be in a position to win without him. But when you are the King Green Archer, when you have a social media following numbering in 6-digits, when you have all the popularity, the commercials, the showbiz commitments, some would just put the blame on you when things don’t go the way they wanted too. Is it fair? No it is not, but life is not fair anyways.
Now, Jeron is down to his final year. And just like all the years of him playing for La Salle, anything less than a championship is a disappointment. Some are expecting Ben Mbala to carry us to the championship, but we need a huge year from Jeron if we want to regain our crown. Jeron played well off Mbala during the summer. He slashed when needed, passed when needed, and the much improved and now consistent mid range game is indeed a thing of beauty. Jeron and Ben will do a Kobe and Shaq, and THEY will lead us to the championship.
We are the heavy favorites to win the championship. But anything can happen. We were heavily favored back in 2014 but we failed miserably. We have to work hard and be consistent to go back to the top. A 12-2 record is very possible for DLSU, with possible losses to an always-dangerous FEU squad, and a dramatic loss to an Adamson team that is filled with Lasallians on their coaching staff. The immediate goal is to get the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four, then take it from there. ANIMO LA SALLE!