As Final Four unfolds, NU rues missing out
MANILA, Philippines – Despite stacking up their roster with blue chip recruits like Dave Ildefonso, John Lloyd Clemente, and Gilas cadet Troy Rike, the National University (NU) Bulldogs fell by the wayside and wound up at 7th place in the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball tournament.
NU head coach Jamike Jarin and his team collectively described their campaign as "disappointing" even after they closed out their campaign with a win over fellow cellar-dweller University of the East.
"It's a funny feeling," said Jarin. "Because if you end up with a win, and you don't celebrate – really celebrate – it means you did not make it, so there's still a sad thing about it."
"It's a bit disappointing. I'd rather lose because you were there [in the playoffs] than to win because you're out."
Far Eastern University completed the Final Four cast after ousting La Salle in a playoff. The Tamaraws will take on defending champion Ateneo on Sunday, November 25, a day after No. 2 Adamson and University of the Philippines clash in the other semifinal pairing.
In 2014, the Bulldogs shed off their tag as the league's whipping boys when they captured their first men's basketball crown in 60 years behind coach Eric Altamirano.
But the Sampaloc-based squad failed to defend its title, slowly slipped in the following seasons, and now, recorded a 4-10 slate – its worst finish in 9 years.
"The whole team and myself, we wish we had a better season, but I think we have a lot of young guys and unfortunately, I'm not gonna be part of it," said Filipino-American Rike, who only had one year of league eligibility.
"Going forward, we're just really going to be a strong team."
Rike admitted that he also underperformed due to an incident at the Bureau of Immigration, where he was detained due to visa issues.
"I just kept having flashbacks to what my life was like versus what it is at this particular moment and I was like what am I doing," said Rike, noting that the experience – which came right in the middle of their campaign – affected his mental state for the rest of the season.
"So that was a tough time afterwards. I was a bit concerned after it, to be honest on what was going to happen."
Despite the hiccups the Bulldogs had, they're just looking forward to learning and rebuilding their young team. After all, rookies Dave Ildefonso and the sweet-shooting Clemente had incredible runs that can make NU a contender again.
"We got some talents, experience, and hopefully we just get there," said Jarin. – Rappler.com