How far will UP go? ‘Champions,’ says Juan Gomez De Liaño
MANILA, Philippines – You can never accuse Juan Gomez De Liaño of lacking confidence.
The incoming sophomore Maroon wasn’t shy about his predictions on how far the University of the Philippines men’s basketball team can go in UAAP Season 81.
“We’re going to win, we’re going to win. Champions, for me.”
Gomez De Liaño has reason to be confident. He’s coming off a stellar campaign in 2017 where he won the league’s Rookie of the Year award, with UP missing the Final Four just by a game. His performance in the team’s season played a major role in their solid standing.
In 2018, the team now has big man Bright Akhuetie, who’s expected to help propel the Maroons to the semis for the first time in over two decades.
“I feel like this year we’re gonna make the Final Four spot and then once you get there, we’re just going to take it one game at a time," said Gomez De Liaño. "I feel like we have the tools. Our lineup’s pretty much complete, from point guard to the center spot. We also have bench players so it’ll be good.”
UP, which hasn’t made the Final Four since 1997, also faces increased expectations this season given the team’s collection of talent – its best in years. Aside from Juan, his brother Javi Gomez De Liaño is about to enter his third season, while Paul Desiderio will play in his last.
Do they feel added pressure to deliver victories because of the said expectations?
“There has always been pressure ever since,” said Juan. “But for me, as a player, once I step in the court, I don’t feel any pressure at all. It’s just my focus is locked in on basketball.”
If UP does achieve its expected goals, the team will need Juan to step up and play even better than he did his rookie campaign, where he averaged 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists a game.
Fortunately for the Maroons, the now more ripped Gomez De Liaño has been working hard on his game during the offseason.
“I’ve been working on everything. I’ve been working on ball handling, consistency of my shot, and, you know, just being more aggressive with the ball.”
And, as previously mentioned, everyone can be sure he won’t be afraid of any moment come the UAAP season.
“I’ve been always confident my whole life.” – Rappler.com