MANILA, Philippines – The UST Growling Tigers ended a four-year Final Four drought after wrapping up the elimination round with an 8-6 win-loss record, 3 wins better than last season.
With the team full of rookies and transferees getting their first dose of UAAP men's basketball action, head coach Aldin Ayo couldn't help but admire their handiwork after the team's significant improvement.
"That's an accomplishment already because last season, we only won 5 games," said Ayo. "This is a long-term program and there's progress, so you have to be grateful for that."
The Tigers had initially secured just a playoff for the last Final Four berth when they held back the also-ran Adamson Soaring Falcons in their final elimination game last Saturday, October 26. But a UP win over La Salle the following day propelled UST to the playoffs to complete the semifinal cast.
While there was little scare in their Final Four aspirations, Ayo was just glad that his young guns finished the eliminations the right way.
"We have the players. They are good players but they are still young," he said. "If you can see, [Mark Nonoy] had 8 turnovers so those are the things we are going to work on this season and for next season."
"And of course, the guys also, Rhenz [Abando], [Soulemane] Chabi [Yo] and the rest of the rookies. Hopefully, they learn from this season."
Aside from the young guns, the Tigers also have other standout rookies such as the sweet-shooting Sherwin Concepcion and burly forward Dave Ando.
That's not even including sophomore captain CJ Cansino and veterans like Renzo Subido and Zach Huang.
Even after some days of controversies, the Tigers' program is clearly headed in the right direction regardless of what happens next. For Ayo, that's really all he asks for at this point.
"We are just grateful for being here, for being given this big responsibility to handle this team and I'm just grateful," he said. "I would like to thank the community for the trust they give this team." – Rappler.com