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MANILA, Philippines – Nic Cabañero is saddened by the constant defeats he has suffered since becoming the UST Growling Tigers’ go-to guy. But his desire to leave a winning legacy in España still fuels him to put his best foot forward whenever he steps foot on a UAAP court – as challenging as it may be.
“Personally, I’m really hurt,” Cabañero admitted in an exclusive interview with Rappler following the Tigers’ latest defeat at the hands of Ateneo in Season 86 men’s basketball on Wednesday, October 18, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was UST’s 19th straight defeat dating back to the second game of last season in October 2022, an unprecedented and agonizing losing streak for a proud collegiate basketball program that has 18 UAAP men’s basketball titles to its legacy.
“I was a champion with San Beda in NCAA high school,” Cabañero said in a mix of Filipino and English. “I want to do the same for UST, because I owe the school a lot.”
The Growling Tigers have lost their six games this season by an average of 17 points a contest. Their recent shellacking includes a 20-point defeat to Ateneo and 31-point blowout against UP, last season’s finalists – a sobering fall from grace for a team that just four years ago looked on the cusp of yearly title contention.
“I’m not the only one who’s hurt. My teammates are hurt as well,” Cabañero said. “The first round is nearly over but we won’t back down. Never mind the bashers. We will do our best to have our first win. The ball is round. Nothing is impossible.”
UST ranks last in points allowed to opponents at 90.7, almost 20 more given up than the next team on the list (Adamson). They also rank last in FG% and 3PT% allowed and give up the most points to opponents in the paint, perimeter, starters, bench, turnovers, and fastbreaks.
The absence of foreign student-athlete (FSA) Adame Faye due to a back injury has prevented the Growling Tigers from having adequate rim protection and an interior scoring presence.
“It’s not the reason but if we don’t have an FSA, you’re at a disadvantage. But I’m not supposed to think that way. It’s a big factor if there’s an FSA. He can dominate defense and rebounding, but it’s not a reason,” Cabañero said.
“We’re the ones supposed to help each other out so we’re more together as a team.”
The arrival of returning head coach Pido Jarencio and backing from the San Miguel corporation has not yielded wins, yet.
But the Growling Tigers have notable players developing in addition to Cabañero, such as Christian Manaytay and Ivanne Calum, plus reinforcements coming in Season 87, such as Kyle Paranada and Forthsky Padrigao. A new foreign student-athlete in Peter Osang is likewise waiting for his turn to be lined up.
Like current impressive UE foreign student-athlete Precious Momowei, Osang developed at Phenom Championship Clinic before committing to a college.
Cabañero would be a senior in Season 87, likely an even better player following another year of playing experience.
But is it a guarantee that he will return to UST?
“Leaving college? Let’s see what will happen, but I want to leave a name for myself in UST,” he answered. “I want a legacy in UST. I still want to play in college basketball and show to the UST community how much they mean to me and that we can win.” – Rappler.com