MANILA, Philippines – The rebuilding process for the NU Buldogs did not go as planned last season.
Fielding blue-chip recruits such as Dave Ildefonso and John Lloyd Clemente, NU was pegged as a Final Four dark horse. However, due to a number of factors like inexperience and injuries, the Bulldogs limped to a 4-10 finish for the year – just a step above the cellar.
Undeterred, the program decided to fast-track the team's development by pitting the young Bulldogs against seasoned veterans and powerhouse teams of the PBA D-League during the off-season.
There, the team stars eventually felt that they took a step further in their development, both mentally and physically.
"Nakuha namin doon yung maturity as a team na 'yung mga matatanda, kung paano sila manggulang, na-experience din namin yun," Clemente said. "Magandang experience talaga sa amin 'yun."
(We gained maturity playing with older guys, how they get physical, we also experienced that. It was a really good experience for us.)
Heading into Season 82, the Bulldogs' young core has remained largely intact, led by veterans like new captain Shaun Ildefonso and streaky big man Issa Gaye.
And the long-term prospect alone of what this team can become is enough for coach Jamike Jarin to continue what they have started building.
"The only thing you cannot fast-track is the experience. You have to go through that," he said. "Hopefully, I’m keeping my fingers crossed, with the experience we had last year, it should help us in our campaign in the coming UAAP season." – Rappler.com