MANILA, Philippines – Back in UAAP Season 82, the NU Bullpups completed their dominant run through the boys’ basketball tournament with a clean 16-0 sweep on the way to the championship.
That team was stacked to the brim with the likes of Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao, Gerry Abadiano, Harold Alarcon, and many other prospects who went on to carve key roles in different collegiate teams.
It would be easy to assume that Tamayo – now a UAAP seniors champion, Rookie of the Year, and Mythical Five member with UP – led the way as the unquestioned go-to guy, but that’s not the case.
That distinction belonged to Terrence Fortea.
Now in his second season with the Maroons playing alongside Tamayo, Alarcon, and Abadiano, the 20-year-old gunner finally had a seniors’ game to remember after tallying 15 points, a game-high 9 assists, and 5 rebounds as UP started off its Season 85 title defense campaign with a 72-69 win over La Salle.
Stepping in for injured finals hero JD Cagulangan, Fortea knew that when his longtime coach Goldwin Monteverde tapped him to step up in their starting point guard’s absence, he had to take full advantage of the extended opportunity.
“I just accepted the challenge that JD’s not here. I just accepted the role to help out my team,” he said in Filipino. “I know I’m just JD’s backup, but that’s no reason [to slack]. If our brother is not here, we need to step up.”
“Coach Gold just told me to think carefully on what to execute in the game. He already trusts me, so I just played my game to get those assists and shots.”
Monteverde, who coached the Fortea-led Bullpups to that high school season sweep, was likewise pleased that his former high school star stayed patient in a diminished role for Season 84, and showcased his growth this time around in a new role.
“In NU, he’s more of a [shooting guard], he’s the scorer. This is a big challenge now being a point guard, being tasked to facilitate rather than focusing on scoring,” he said.
“I think from last season, he has improved a lot in that position, and it’s great that he has embraced being a point guard. I’m sure he’s going to improve more in that position.”
Time and again, Monteverde’s longtime connection with his current players paid dividends throughout their title-winning season. He fully trusts his players, and the feeling is mutual – making his decisions to bench his former top stars like Fortea a lot easier to pull off without issues.
As the defending champions continue to have a season-long, bright red target on their backs, that intangible trust will definitely prove to be invaluable moving forward. – Rappler.com