Already ahead of schedule, Pumaren aims for Adamson to reach the top
MANILA, Philippines – Imagine these two scenarios for a college basketball team in the UAAP.
Both take place during the offseason. In the first one, the said team is unable to secure pre-season tune-up games to get them prepared for the upcoming elimination round. Already in dire need of blue-chip recruits, the program fails miserably during the season and becomes the laughing stock of the league.
In the second scenario, the said team participates in multiple tournaments – including the developmental league of the PBA, plus competitions out of the country. During their practice sessions, guys are diving to the floor, playing physical defense, and giving no leeway in terms of competition.
It doesn't take a genius to realize it's the team in the second situation that's bound for success.
The moment he took over the Adamson basketball program, Franz Pumaren implemented a culture change that turned one of the sorriest teams in college basketball into a consistent Final Four threat.
When Pumaren was introduced as the new head coach in 2016, he asked for 3 years in order for both fans and critics to see the type of turnaround he promised. We're less than a month away from his third season coaching these Falcons, and Adamson is gunning for a third straight Final Four appearance.
"I think the culture dramatically changed, but there's still perception that just keeping the game close, we competed, it's already an achievement," he told Rappler.
"We're slowly trying to erase that idea and I guess they noticed it already, because according to all the players, during their time during the preseason, during the summer, they didn't even have practice games because other teams didn't want to play them.”
UAAP Season 81 is set to kick off in the first week of September, but it's safe to assume Adamson is already in mid-season form thanks to the team's activity during the offseason.
In the recent PBA D-League conference, the Falcons seeded first overall after the elimination round before getting eliminated in the semifinals. Just last week, Pumaren's boys participated in a tournament in Taiwan and finished with an above .500 record. Adamson also made it as far as the quarterfinals in the Filoil preseason tourney.
"I think it's a testament to what we've accomplished, it's a testament to our program, that we're slowly getting there. It's a process that sometimes it's hard to swallow. You will make mistakes, we will make mistakes being a young team, trying to incorporate all the things that we need to do," said the multi-titled head coach.
"Physically we're about 90," he shared about the team's current status. "We don't want to peak too soon. We have a young team coming into this season. I think half of my players are all rookies, so there's going to be bumps along the way and hopefully they can mature during the course of the season."
It’s an exciting year for Adamson. The team is relatively young thanks to the 7 rookies who are going to be lined-up in Season 81, but with veterans like Jerrick Ahanmisi, Jerie Pingoy, Sean Manganti, and Papi Sarr coming in with another season of experience under their belts, there's a lot of potential to be thrilled about for the Soaring Falcons.
There are also concerns and some added pressure. Pumaren will no longer have the services of his starting point guard Rob Manalang and big man Dawn Ochea, both of whom have graduated. Furthermore, having made the Final Four the past two years, some believe it's time for Adamson to take the next step and make it to the UAAP Finals.
"If you look at my history the last two years, I think we were ahead of schedule. Basically when they first hired me, my first season my projection was we'll try to be competitive, we'll try to be in there every time. I guess we were able to overachieve during the first season," said Pumaren.
"There's a process I think we have to go through. From fourth place, we went to third. Hopefully this season we will go a notch higher."
The key to that is consistency, which Pumaren knows all about. When he was leading La Salle to consecutive titles during the turn of the century, his Green Archers were constantly in the championship picture and piling up wins against the top teams in the league.
That's what his current team has to accomplish next. Against DLSU and Ateneo, the last two UAAP champs, Adamson has won only once since Pumaren took over. In fact, it was the Green Archers who bounced the Falcons out of the Final Four in each of the last two years.
"We just have to be consistent with our performance. We cannot just show the other teams a glimpse of what we can do," explained Pumaren. "We have to do it 40 minutes, because for us to be really on top of the hill, we have to be consistently mentally and physically tough." – Rappler.com