UP Maroons fight to stay positive despite season struggles
MANILA, Philippines – Four games into Season 77 of the UAAP, it's clear that the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons are in for another season of struggles.
As the game clock expired on Sunday, July 27 and the final score recorded 85-71 in favor of the FEU Tamaraws, the Maroons effectively clocked in their 25th straight loss dating back to two seasons ago.
They are still winless, they are still cellar dwellers, and they are still groping through a decades long dark ages in collegiate men's basketball. But it is during these times that head coach Rey Madrid would like to see his team stick together.
"That's the hardest thing now," Madrid admitted how keeping the Maroons' spirits up is a trying task. "I could use all the help I can get. I just want them to be together right now. That's the biggest challenge for us."
The Maroons have lost by an average of 16 points so far and are at pace to piling up on more losses given that the UST Growling Tigers and the De La Salle Green Archers are their next assignments.
"We're not a great team, we're not a super team but we still try to compete at this level. The best we can do is to hold on to each other."
Last season, the Diliman-based squad came up with another disappointing 0-14 season.
Their problems are compounded further as they are now a team composed mostly of rookies, with sophomore and reigning Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao leading the way.
"We are just grasping on straws right now," Madrid heaved a sigh. "We just try to learn as much as we can and not get down too much. Not to get discouraged, not to get frustrated."
UP's last senior men's basketball title was in 1986, when Madrid himself was on the team. Since then, they've plunged into a black hole of crushing defeats with the rare glimmer of a win.
The key for them is patience. This UP team is young but also brimming with potential. This season could be the start of a brighter, more competitive next few years for the Maroons.
For now, however, the learning process continues. Madrid's goal is to have already made some significant strides by the end of the first round at least.
"I know we're really bad but I hope we could get something together before the end of the first round and be more competitive in the second round."
UP will try to stage an upset on Saturday, August 2 against the also struggling UST and avoid a dreaded 26th defeat.
And considering the way the Tigers had to slave out a one-point 50-49 victory over Adamson last week, the Maroons have a solid chance if they play their cards right.
Though Madrid is looking to approach their 5th game of the season independent of previous performances.
"Independent ang look ng one team against another team. We cannot judge. We don't base it on their previous performance."
He would also like to go back to basics and encourage his team to crash the boards if not through height, but with gallant effort.
"Glaringly, it's the basics. We get out-rebounded, we get out-hustled. More than anything it's the rebounding," Madrid explained.
The rebounding problem recurred over their first few outings with UP being outrebounded by an average of 21 so far.
With UST's Karim Abdul in tandem with lengthy and feisty forwards, UP will certainly find it rough in the paint once again on Saturday.
The past seasons, the trend has been the Maroons staying close throughout most of the game before caving in the crucial moments of the fourth period – despite added support of every other UAAP fan, whose school is not competing in any given game, also rooting for them.
This time, they hope that after the final buzzer blares, they will be the first to sing their school hymn, and Madrid will finally make an appearance in the press room for the post-game interview.
And when they walk out to their team bus, they will smile at the huge slogan plastered on it: "Nowhere to go but UP." – Rappler.com