MANILA, Philippines – After capping off their lackluster first round on a high note, the National University Bulldogs believe they now have the ingredients to make a comeback in the second round.
In their stellar win over University of the East, rookies Dave Ildefonso and John Lloyd Clemente stole the spotlight on the court, but head coach Jamike Jarin credits his veterans Dave Wilson Yu, Matthew Aquino and Rev Diputado for something more than what is shown in the stat sheet.
“We have to give credit where credit is due,” said Jarin.
“These guys are the ones who glue us together so we perform better. Hopefully we just keep doing this and the results will go in our favor.”
For a young Bulldogs team, it is not easy for its rookie stars to cope with a 5-game losing streak that even included a one-point heartbreaking loss to the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons.
“Actually morale was sometimes after [a] loss, medyo malungkot pero I find ways na parang ‘oh, kain muna tayo sa labas’. Mawala muna sa isip namin ‘yung basketball, nag-uusap kami, nagkuwkuwentuhan,” said Yu who has been averaging 2.4 points per game.
(Actually sometimes, the morale after a loss is a bit sad but I find ways like ‘hey, let’s eat out’. We’re going to forget about basketball, and we talk and share stories.)
However, things are different now that the Bulldogs have to ride on their winning momentum heading to their second round opener against the Adamson Soaring Falcons who beat them by 5 points earlier in the first round.
Another challenge for Jarin’s squad is to bounce back from last season’s 2-5 dip in the second round where the J-jay Alejandro-led Bulldogs were eventually eliminated by UP from Final 4 contention.
“Last year, we relaxed kasi isip namin na kaya namin sa second round, hindi kami nag-put in work. Pero right now, sinasabi ko na: ‘Let’s put in the work’ kasi nangyari na last season eh, so dapat hindi na pwede maulit,” added Yu.
(Last year, we relaxed because we thought that we can do good in the second round, so we didn’t put in work. But right now, I’m already saying: ‘Let’s put in the work’ because it already happened last year so it shouldn’t happen again.)
Although the veterans have mostly been spending their final year on the bench, they have already accepted their crucial leadership off-the-court and continue to put their trust in Jarin and their rising stars.
“Even if it means me sitting on the bench the whole game and seeing the rookies dominate and win the game, it’s okay. Kahit mag-sit out ako the whole game basta panalo, okay lang (Even though I sit out the whole game, as long as we win, it’s okay),” said big man Aquino.
“Ako last playing year ko na pero the next years, ‘yung team na ‘to pang-championship na talaga.”
(It’s my last playing year but in the next years, this team will be a championship team.)
The NU Bulldogs will clash with the Soaring Falcons – who are tied for first with Far Eastern University and Ateneo – on Wednesday, October 17, 4 pm at the Mall of Asia Arena. – Rappler.com