Outgoing UP captain Andrew Harris happy to leave behind a winning culture
MANILA, Philippines – Having been a student for 7 years and a team captain for 3, perhaps no one knows the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons experience more than Andrew Harris.
Even the casual fan knows, however, that "the UP Fighting Maroons experience" is a largely forgettable one until recent years, under head coach Bo Perasol. For fans, they could have opted to tune out the bad times and just return when things were looking up. Harris, meanwhile, had no choice but to endure the dark years.
Perhaps it’s fitting that in what would turn out to be his final game in maroon colors, UP shot its way to a huge 106-81 victory, eliminating the National University (NU) Bulldogs from contention and recording their largest margin of victory in 13 years. As a cherry on top, Harris recorded his first two points of the season and the team’s 100th of the game off a reverse layup. To add to the fans’ euphoria, fellow graduating players Paolo Romero and Rob Ricafort iced the game with their own buckets.
After a tumultuous career under 3 coaches, two straight winless years, and a total of 55 losses in 5 playing seasons, one couldn’t ask for a more perfect ending for the team captain.
Unfortunately for the team, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws clinched the 4th seed the very next game with a 71-54 win over the injury-riddled Adamson University (AdU) Soaring Falcons, thus eliminating the Maroons from contention.
Nevertheless, Harris was happy with the strides the program has taken over the years, culminating with their best finish in 12 years.
"Simply said, coach put together a good team," he said. "We’re gonna be the foundation of the years to come."
The Fil-Am center also reminisced about the fans’ lackluster turnout when he started out, and gave props for how attendance and support has grown in recent years.
"In my first year, it’s like only parents would watch," he said. "You can actually count how many people were in the crowd. As the years went on, I think in 2014 when #nowheretogobutUP came in, the crowds started coming in. But this [game] was the most I’ve ever seen the UP community coming and supporting us. I really feel the love."
But what Harris would miss most from his stay, according to him, were the bond he has formed with the community, especially with his team.
"I really got a close bond with my teammates," he said. "I love how in practice we were serious but off the court, we just had great bonding together. Wherever we went, we always had fun."
The graduating captain went on to praise the future of the team, namely Paul Desiderio, who dropped 30 points, and the Gomez de Liano brothers, who combined for 39 (22 for Juan and 17 for Javi).
"As long as they keep working hard, UP is in good hands," he said. "Paul has one more year, Juan is just a rookie [and], Javi is just in his 2nd year."
"UP’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come." – Rappler.com