MANILA, Philippines – Franz Pumaren has been a walking formula for success in the collegiate basketball scene.
After steering the La Salle Green Archers to 5 UAAP championships – 4 straight from 1998 to 2001 – he immediately turned the Adamson Soaring Falcons’ fortunes around and led them to 3 straight playoff appearances since 2016.
However, his magic touch seemingly ran out in UAAP Season 82, as his Falcons got eliminated from Final Four contention after dropping to 4-8.
Despite missing the playoffs for only the second time in 15 collegiate seasons, Pumaren now looks forward to what the program has in store for the future.
“[I’m] disappointed we didn’t make it, but let’s look at the other side of the coin. It’s a stepping stone that the program has to learn, to develop,” he said. “It’s a program that thrives on solution, a program that started from scratch and developed players.”
“When I came here, Adamson wasn’t considered a contender or what. In fact, no teams in the summer would practice with them,” he continued. “But modestly speaking, with my assumption as the one in charge of the program, we were able to establish some respect with the other schools.”
Indeed, the Falcons quickly transformed from cellar-dweller to perennial contender under Pumaren’s watch, peaking with a second-place, 10-3 finish last season.
And with a slew of blue-chip talent like UAAP juniors Mythical Team member Joem Sabandal, NCAA juniors Mythical Five selection Aaron Fermin and high-flying revelation AP Manlapaz, Adamson’s relapse might just be a quick bump on the road to success.
In fact, the Falcons’ future is tantalizing enough for team leader Jerrick Ahanmisi to stay for one last shot at the championship next year. (READ: Eager Ahanmisi set to return for final year after lost season)
“I have a crop of young guys that can be labeled as future superstars in the UAAP,” Pumaren said. “The way I look at them, they will be playing in the pros right after their collegiate years.”
“Sabandal has been projected who’s someone who will get a lot of playing time but it’s just unfortunate he broke his hand so he was out almost the entire first round,” he continued. “AP Manlapaz will be probably the best athlete. [Joshua] Yerro and [Aaron] Flowers didn’t get that much playing minutes, but all of my rookies will be stepping up next year.”
Right now, what’s important for Pumaren is that his wards learn well from the current season and continue to experience both the highs and the lows.
“Coming into the season, half of my team are rookies, they’re young coming off high school,” he said. “But you know we were always there in the game. I guess the lesson we accomplished in the UAAP is there’s no substitute for experience.” – Rappler.com