Jao Umandal still uncertain about UST return

Jao Umandal’s days as a Growling Tiger might be over.

The student-athlete and rising star of Team Rebisco revealed in an episode of Rappler Talk that he would probably not suit up for another UAAP season with his alma mater University of Sto. Tomas (UST).

Umandal, one of the key players for UST, said he’ll turn his attention to the national team if he could finish his studies before UAAP’s return next year.

Kapag nakatapos na ako ng pag-aaral this year, siguro hindi na [ako babalik],” Umandal said. “Mag-focus na lang ako sa national team. Pero kung hindi pa rin ako makakuha ng mga subject ko ngayon, baka makapaglaro pa rin po ako.

Nakadepende pa rin sa pag-aaral. Mahalaga na makapagtapos pa rin, hindi lang puro paglalaro,” he added.

(If I could finish my studies this year, then I’ll probably focus my attention on the national team. But if I can’t, then I’ll probably play for UST again. Everything depends on my studies.)

Umandal had a phenomenal performance in the two games that they were able to play in the COVID-hit UAAP Season 82. He scored 21 and 25 points in a losing effort against the FEU Tamaraws and NU Bulldogs, respectively.

And despite his long layoff, the 22-year-old hitter was able to step up against powerhouse Asian teams in the 2021 Asian Club Volleyball Championships that was staged in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

Ang goal ko lang eh mailabas ko agad yung laro ko kasi opportunity na 'yon para mapakita sa mga coaches [na worth it] yung tiwala na binigay nila sa akin,” he said.

(My goal was to show my best performance because that tournament was my opportunity to show our coaches that the trust they gave me was worth it.)

Umandal had to fill in a huge role offensively after the country’s top scorers Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas decided to skip the tournament to fulfill their duties as imports in the Japan V.League.

Ginampanan ko yung role ko na kailangan ng team,” Umandal said. “Wala si Marck, wala si Bryan. Kahit hindi man namin mahigitan yung dalawa, ang goal namin ay magawa yung responsibilidad namin as outside hitter. All the way, kailangan the best yung gagawin namin.”

(I fulfilled the role that my team needed. My goal was to show my best as an outside hitter now that Marck and Bryan are not around.)

The UST stalwart wrapped up the tournament by leading the national team to their sole victory against Sri Lanka's CEB Sports Club, where he scored 28 points after five grueling sets.

Umandal, though, admits that their performance against the Sri Lankan team was not the best, but still considered the victory as a huge achievement for the country.

Panalo ay panalo pa rin kahit ilang sets, pero sa game na 'yon, medyo sumabay kami sa kanila. Hindi yun yung laro namin. Alam namin na kaya tapusin ng third set pero sumabay kami sa laro nila,” said Umandal.

Pero yung nakakuha kami ng panalo, malaking achievement na rin 'yon para sa amin.”

(A win is a win, but we could’ve finished the game in three sets if we played our game properly. But in the end, we still got the victory. That’s a huge achievement for us.)

For now, Umandal and the rest of the men’s volleyball team are hoping for another bubble camp to continue their training. – Rappler.com