UAAP Season 76: 'Fighting' is back for young UP
Projected First 5
G Mikee Reyes
G Julius Wong
F Sam Marata
F Cris Ball
C Raul Soyud
Key additions: Kyles Lao, Andrei Paras, Andrew Harris, Joseph Marata
Key subtractions: Mike Silungan, Mike Gamboa, Jett Manuel, Jelo Montecastro, Alvin Padilla, Alinko Mbah, Paolo Romero, Mark Lopez
Looking back: Despite fielding a veteran team in 2012, the Fighting Maroons found themselves on the losing end of many close games en route to finishing dead-last in the tournament. Supposed gunners Silungan, Gamboa, Silungan and Lopez all shot below 23% from downtown and both Ball and Soyud were unable to provide reliable options in the post as UP still failed to get out of the cellar.
Backcourt: Mikee Reyes returns after skipping two seasons because of injuries and it is now Henry Asilum, who gathered fans last year with his razzle-dazzle play, who is injured (although coach Ricky Dandan confirmed during the UAAP press conference that Asilum is good to go).
Reyes and Asilum form a solid point guard rotation but both are prone to turnovers and are more scorers than playmakers. Julius Wong, who exploded for 16 points in a FilOil win, will start at the two-guard positiion when the season begins, but expect rookie Kyles Lao to vie for the starting spot as the tournament goes along.
Frontcourt: Soyud is slow and looks disengaged at times, but he has that soft midrange touch most bigs in the UAAP do not have and the body to bang with the biggest centers of them. Meanwhile, Ball is an agile big man who loves to stroke it from 15 feet while also doing enough activity underneath to score off putbacks.
At best, the two form a decent frontcourt pairing that definitely isn't the best in the league, but would be enough to impact games. The hard part will be expecting youngsters Andrew Harris and Andrei Paras to take off while Soyud and Ball are on the bench.
Sam Marata will obviously be the go-to guy for UP here. His deft shooting touch from long range earned him a solid reputation with La Salle before he decided to return to Diliman last year. He will have the green light (like Mike Silungan once did) and Maroons fans could only hope that he be careful with his shot selection.
Coaching: Dandan has proven to be a solid coach in the UAAP. He is a master of game-planning and always brings his team to games ready and prepared. The question, however, is how Dandan would make in-game adjustments, as UP usually fades when opponents adjust to what they bring off the gates.
X-Factor: Kyles Lao is the next Xavier Stallion to bring his talents to Quezon City after Woody Co and Jett Manuel. The Tiong Lian MVP should get his minutes once the Maroons figure out that Wong isn't the answer at the two-spot and that they need to develop Lao for the future.
Looking forward: Dandan was quick to admit that the Maroons are the definite underdogs in UAAP Season 76, especially after seeing its roster get decimated as other teams beefed up their lineups. So this year will be one of those character-building tournaments, where UP would get to develop and gather experience for their young guns.
A Final Four slot would be farfetched, but as Dandan himself noted, the fighting is back in the Maroons and expect them to go all out in trying to scalp higher-ranked opponents. - Rappler.com