MANILA, Philippines – Their first year into the post Bobby Ray Parks Era, the National University Bulldogs are looking to create a new identity following the loss of their two-time league MVP.
But despite the change of team culture, NU’s head coach believes that his squad still has what it takes to compete with the best of college basketball, regardless of who remains in the team.
“Any given day, we’re capable of beating the top teams (in the UAAP),” Coach Eric Altamirano confidently stated during the league’s press conference on Monday, July 7.
“I think we’re competitive enough to beat the strongest team in the league,” added Altamirano, who was assumingly referring to tournament favorite La Salle, as confirmed later during the coaches’ roundtable.
However, Altamirano isn’t oblivious to the ordeals he knows will be present. And he’s hoping his roster can step up to the challenge and help the Bulldogs achieve what they haven’t been able to do so the past few years.
“We’re also vulnerable in terms of our youth,” he said. “Because of our youth, also, we tend to be inconsistent. So, that’s one of the things we’re trying to address right now. And hopefully, they continue to improve as the season goes along.”
The Bulldogs toped the league standings last year and had a twice-to-beat advantage entering the playoffs, but days later all of that was worth nothing, as they fell at the hands of the UST Growling Tigers.
It wasn’t the first time UST eliminated NU, as the Bulldogs also succumbed to the Growling Tigers in 2012.
“Of course, we want to redeem ourselves. We want to put last season behind us, move forward, and focus on this coming season,” Altamirano noted.
And challenging as the upcoming year may be, it will still no doubt be “interesting.”
“Well, we expect an interesting season, especially for NU. We have new players, we have nine newcomers, and then seven holdovers. So, it’s a big adjustment for us,” the head coach shared.
“We lost part of our top players from last year, so it’s going to be a new challenge for us this coming season.”
File photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
Moving on from Parks brings its tests, considering the team built an offensive system surrounding him and big man John Mbe – who has also graduated – over the past few years. READ:
But the Bulldogs now look to start a new dynamic on offense.
“We’ve practiced for a couple of months without Bobby Ray. We’ve played in the preseason without him. So I think the team has already moved on without Bobby Ray,” added the team’s play-caller, who says the burden of scoring will be spread amongst the rest of the rotation players.
“We’re finding our new identity now. Kasi, for the last couple of years the team was really centered on Bobby Ray and John Mbe. But now we have to rely on everybody.”
No one is exempted from this rule – not even the newcomers, who will have to adapt to the college game right away.
“It’s going to be a collective effort from the team. Even our rookies,” he says of a recruiting class that includes Alfred Aroga and Rev Diputado, among others. “So, I think that’s one of the adjustments we’re going to have this coming season.”
Some have ruled out NU as a title contender, talking about how their lack of a go-to-guy like Parks or Mbe takes them out of the running from the title. But, like Chris Newsome said about Ateneo a few weeks back, Altamirano believes his team will be hard to prepare for because of a certain reason.
“Well, in a way yes kasi (because) we become unpredictable,” the head coach answered when asked if he believes his team can win the seniors’ division championship.
“You never know who’s going to step up for a particular game. Kasi we can go to anybody now. Unlike last year, everybody knew we were going to go to Bobby Ray.” – Rappler.com