MANILA, Philippines – When the undefeated DLSU Green Archers face the also unbeaten NU Bulldogs on Sunday, September 18, it will feature arguably the two best teams in the UAAP today.
The matchup will also include two coaches who aren’t strangers to winning championships – veteran NU coach Eric Altamirano and new DLSU coach Aldin Ayo.
Here’s something you may not have known about the two: it was actually Altamirano, 6 years ago, who introduced Ayo to the basketball coaching scene in Manila.
“Well actually, he was the first one who brought me here to Manila,” Ayo told Rappler this week, following DLSU’s 100-62 win over UST.
“Galing sa Sorsogon (Coming from Sorsogon), he brought me for the Nike Elite camp. That was 2010. That was the time I was able to Coach Mark Cruz also, before Mark went to Letran for the college. I coached him there at Brent.”
Ayo, a former player for the Letran Knights in the NCAA, admitted he had no plans of moving to Manila before Altamirano invited him over.
“Before, sa Sorsogon lang ako (I was staying only in Sorsogon). Before, I didn’t have any plans of coming here, but he was the one who actually showed me ganito pala yung basketball sa Manila (this is how basketball is in Manila).”
Ayo, who like many others refer to Altamirano as “Coach E”, also shared that he was constantly a part of the NU head coach’s NBTC (National Basketball Training Center) for high school students and has maintained a good relationship with Altamirano and the rest of his family.
In a way, Altamirano’s invitation to Manila helped Ayo get used to the coaching landscape in the country’s capital, which paved the way for him to become the head coach of Letran. In 2015, Ayo led the Knights to their first NCAA title in a decade, and not long after, was offered the head coaching spot in La Salle.
When asked about the upcoming game against NU, Ayo complimented the basketball program that Altamirano created for the Bulldogs who, so far this season, have won against UE and Ateneo.
“Malakas din yung NU talaga. Contender yun. Matagal na sila magkakasama eh,” he said.
(NU is strong. It’s a contender. They’ve been together for quite some time now.)
“Kung titingnan mo, buong-buo yung team na yun, and they have a good coaching staff, they have the materials, and I’m familiar with their system, kasi ako, galing din ako kay Coach E. Galing ako doon sa program niya.”
(Because if you look at it, the team is loaded, and they have a good coaching staff, they have the materials, and I’m familiar with their system, because I also came from Coach E. I came from his program.)
Led by third-year foreign student-athlete and former UAAP Finals MVP Alfred Aroga, NU remains one of the best defensive teams in the UAAP. And thanks to the improvement of veterans Rev Diputado and J-Jay Alejandro, plus the arrival of floor-spreader Matt Salem, the Bulldogs have also added more firepower to their offense.
“It’s because of their teamwork. Basketball naman, the longer magkakasama kayo (you’re together), the more na magkakaroon ng (there will be) team chemistry. The more they become a team,” said Ayo, who admitted as well that he was surprised NU wasn’t talked about much as a championship contender entering the season.
“They’re still there and maganda yung program ni Coach E. They have the personnel. Na-surprise ako bakit hindi pinapag-usapan yung NU.”
(They’re still there and the program of Coach E is good. They have the personnel. I was surprised why they weren’t talked about that much.) – Rappler.com