Dan Alberto reaps the benefits of Pumaren’s system

Jane Bracher
Dan Alberto reaps the benefits of Pumaren’s system
Alberto explodes from downtown but it's their defense, he says, that makes all of their scoring possible

MANILA, Philippines – It took exactly 10 minutes into the opening game of UAAP Season 77 for Dan Alberto to showcase the huge impact coach Derrick Pumaren’s system already has on him.

It started with what looked like a lucky shot – a buzzer-beating trey from near the halfcourt line at the end of the first, which broke the deadlock and shoved the UE Red Warriors ahead, 19-16.

And for the remaining 30 minutes of the new season’s first game, Alberto would move gracefully and fluidly within the confines of Pumaren’s well-placed system on his way to a 5-of-6 three-point shooting day and a career high 15 points.

Alberto helped the Warriors ensure that Opening Day was all theirs as they blasted the listless UP Fighting Maroons, 87-59, for their first win.

“Mas comfortable sa akin,” the third year shooting guard bared how he’s adjusted so far to the way Pumaren runs things.

“More on running kami, gusto ni coach kami yung most conditioned team this season. So nag-adjust ako sa ganon.”

(I’m more comfortable. We’re more on running, coach wants us to be the most conditioned team this season. So I adjusted to that.)

Under Pumaren, the Warriors’ main focus is defense more than the offensive execution. They are also subject to strict discipline on and off the court.

Alberto, 21, is one of the few remnants of last year’s UE squad, which lost its core to graduation.

After lurking under the radar for his first two seasons, Alberto is looking like he is coming into his own this year.

He certainly looked like the veteran who knew all too well that complacency, for the most part, means disaster in the UAAP.

That much was evident after he made the buzzer-beater that sparked his confidence and made the ring appear 3 times wider for him.

Alberto barely reacted after he made that triple despite the eruption of the partisan crowd clad in red around him, and his teammates patting him and ruffling his hair. All he did was raise his two hands, not to celebrate, but to implore his teammates to calm down and get back to business.

“Parang masyado sila nagce-celebrate eh. Sabi ko ‘Relax lang tayo, malayo pa yan,'” he said, proving how much experience has taught him as he recalled the times celebrations and smiles became their worst enemies.

“Kasi dati lagi kami nagce-celebrate tapos sa end ng game lagi kami natatalo.”

(They were celebrating too much. I told them to just relax and the game is still far from over.)

“It’s a good start for me but hindi lang sa akin, pati sa team namin kasi maganda yung tinakbo ng defense namin,” he also said, noting the very foundation upon which Pumaren’s entire system is built.

“Yun lang naman lagi ine-emphasize sa amin, yung defense namin.”

(It’s a good start for me but not only me, also for my team because we ran good defense. Defense is always emphasized to us.)

That Pumaren defense was in full swing agains the Maroons, whom they forced to shoot just 30% and limited to just under 60 points.

In the third frame, UE went full throttle to outscore their Diliman counterparts, 21-10, en route to more than 30-point leads in the fourth.

Only reigning Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao scored in double figures (18 points) for the Maroons, who couldn’t break down UE’s hounding defense. Their full-court press was another story altogether as it put UP’s offensive sets in disarray.

“Natutunan ko talaga yung sa defense,” Alberto shared the biggest thing he has learned so far.

“Defense is the number one offense. Yun talaga yung magpapanalo sa amin, tsaka yung hard work talaga, kailangan i-push mo yung sarili mo mag-improve.”

(I really learned a lot about defense. Defense is the number one offense. That’s what will win us games, along with hard work and pushing ourselves to improve.)

Pumaren not only wanted to teach UE defensive schemes, he also wanted his team to imbibe defense and make it their top priority at all times.

Against UP, they did.

They forced the Maroons to put up weak, forced, or premature shots and made rebounding twice as hard for them with 58-29 rebounding favoring UE.

“We rotated well, we challenged them,” said Pumaren, “We made them work and we made them bleed for every single point.”

It’s only one game. And it’s against a lower tier team. Pumaren recognizes that and hopes they will be able to truly prove their mettle against higher tier teams soon.

On to playmaking

For the 5-foot-10 Alberto, this new system not only means bringing out the best of his natural game, more than anything, it also means moving past it and exploring his potential.

According to Alberto, since last season he is already being molded as a playmaker to relive Roi Sumang as needed and also to help him as he moves forward with basketball professionally in the next few years.

“Syempre mahirap din sa una kasi hindi talaga yun yung game ko eh,” Alberto admitted.

“Pero ngayon okay naman with the help of the coaches, palagi nila ako pinu-push.”

(Of course it’s difficult at first because that’s not really my game. But now it’s better with the help of the coaches, they always push me.)

In his first game for Season 77, Alberto registered two assists.

Good start

Many wrote off UE as a team that would likely struggle to start or for the rest of this season because of the adjustment they must go through with their new coach.

But it seems Pumaren’s everyday lessons are already paying off early.

In the weeks leading up to the season, Pumaren made sure that his team understood and remembered what they had learned by wrapping up each training session with a classroom type of discussion.

Each of the Warriors would be asked to draw on a whiteboard before their teammates and coaches various plays they learned that day.

And the team immediately reaped the benefits of small habits like that in their first game, especially Alberto.

“It’s just a start lang,” he downplayed his performance. “Mahaba pa naman yung season eh. Sabi nga ni coach ito dapat yung springboard namin going up eh.”

(It’s just a start. It’s still a long season. Like what coach said, this should be our springboard going up.)

As the season rolls along, Alberto won’t be the only Warrior exploding and taking the spotlight.

There’s still Sumang, Charles Mammie, Moustapha Arafat, and even Bong Galanza – who is considered by the team as an X-factor this season.

As the season rolls along, UE will unravel its potential. – Rappler.com

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