Green Archers Gear Up for UAAP Wars

Green Archers Prepare to Defend Their Crown

With the start of the UAAP season only a few days away, there is a lot of speculation about whether the Green Archers can successfully defend the UAAP title. Several key members of last year’s rotation are no longer with the team. It will be difficult to fill the void left by the departure of team captain Ty Tang and Cholo Villanueva, who together with JV Casio formed the most potent backcourt in the UAAP last year. Brian Ilad finished his eligibility, while Kish Co and OJ Cua elected not to play out their final year. The experience and on-court smarts of these players is going to be hard to replace.

This year’s team is an interesting blend of veterans and newcomers.

Holdovers from last year are: JV Casio, Simon Atkins, Bader Malabes, Peejay Barua, Rejan Lee, James Mangahas, Rico Meierhoffer, PJ Walsham, Ferdinand, and Marko Batricevic. Newcomers on the team are LA Revilla, Hyram Bagatsing, Maui Villanueva, David Webb, Jovet Mendoza, and Manoj Chandumal.

The Green Archers participated in the Nike Summer League and the Fil-Oil Invitational, and made it to the knockout stages of both tournaments before losing out to San Beda and Ateneo respectively. Injuries to our guards JV, Simon, Bader, and LA made it difficult for the team to compete against the stronger opponents, and the Archers were unable to retain both titles which they won last year. Mendoza, Rodriguez, and Chandumal were not on the lineup of the team that played in both tournaments. Sorela and Noble, two promising aspirants who could have immediate contributions were unable to meet the admission requirements and were dropped from the team.

Interestingly, our final 16-man lineup features five homegrown players: Atkins, Ferdinand, Batricevic, Webb, and Chandumal. This is probably the most of any team in the UAAP tournament this season.

So how does the team stack up for this season?

Guards: Casio, Atkins, Revilla, Malabes, Bagatsing, Chandumal

JV remains our premier offensive threat from the outside, and probably will put in more time as an SG but will also take care of ball distribution. Simon has refined his guard play and has unveiled his offensive abilities from the long court as a catch-and-shoot 2. Bader spent some time in sick bay, but has also improved on his ball handling and still deadly from the 3pt area.

Forwards: Meierhoffer, Mangahas, Barua, Villanueva, Webb, Mendoza, Lee

Peejay seems to have regained his form as a deadshot from the wings, and James is playing with increased confidence. Both figure to contribute heavily with the scoring chores this season. Rico has been spectacular at times, and the LA-Rico connection shows promise once they get it figured out. However, Rico still has to learn to stay away from silly fouls which keep him on the bench during long stretches of the games. Rejan will play guard or forward, and is expected to be one of our perimeter defenders against the gunners of the opponents.

Centers: Batricevic, Walsham, Ferdinand

PJ has become more of an inside threat, showcasing some nifty moves in the NSL games. Ferdinand has become accustomed to playing against taller and heftier players, and is starting to show his mettle on the boards. Marko has not quite recovered his game legs, but can light it up on occasion from the outside. His height and length will pose some problems for opponents around the board.

Rookies: LA Revilla, Hyram Bagatsing, Maui Villanueva, David Webb, Jovet Mendoza, and Manoj Chandumal

LA Revilla reminds many of a young Tonyboy Espinosa, with his speed, quickness, and ballhandling ability. Despite playing against taller guards, LA has shown that he can be a pg to reckon with, and became an instant fan favorite during the summer leagues. Maui Villanueva is a blue collar worker who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He does the tough jobs around the paint, boxing out, guarding the opposing big men, and going for the boards. Hyram took some time to adjust to actual La Salle games, then showed his abilities from the 3pt territory, and also demonstrated his ball handling and slashing abilities. Hyram will play some pg on occasion as well. David Webb brings the energy and fire he showed during DLSZ’s title run last year, and is a threat in the long court as well as in the paint. Jovet Mendoza was a national youth team candidate from NU high school, and Manoj Chandumal suited up for DLSZ a couple of years ago. Incidentally, Manoj was the MVP of the recently concluded FIBL tournament.

The Competition

Making the final four is going to be tough this season. Last year’s contenders UE, Ateneo, and UST still have very strong lineups as they retained the nucleus of their teams last year, supplemented by recruits and players who redshirted last year.

UE showcased its strength when it figured in the finals of both the NSL and the Fil-Oil invitational, bagging one championship and losing by a point to Ateneo in the other. Ateneo has the tallest lineup, and reportedly had the best rookie harvest in Buenafe, Chua, Salva, and Burke. UST also parades the core of its champion team two years ago. FEU, a very dangerous team last year which failed to make the cut, is back with a more experienced lineup. Adamson has been rejuvenated by the return of Coach Leo Austria, and gave the Archers a tough time in the encounters during the pre-season tournaments, beating the Archers and dragging them into overtime before losing out in the other. NU still has its wily coach Dandan, and the Bulldogs remain dangerous even as they lay low during the offseason. Only UP might be out if it all, as they attempt to reload after a disastrous season last year.

Outlook at the start of the tournament

Of particular concern at the start of the season is the health of the players. JV, Simon, Bader, and Marko are trying to recover from injuries, with JV and Simon not sure of being ready by next week. After a year off, Marko is not yet in game shape, and played sparingly in the pre-season.

Franz will not be able to devote his full attention to the Archers’ title retention drive, as he will steer the National Youth Team in the SEABA Stankovic Cup in Thailand from July 23-27, and the Asian Youth in September. There are also plans to hold a Manila Youth Invitational tournament from August 14-17. While he has able assistants who can pinch hit during these periods, his presence on the Archer bench will be sorely missed.

In a related development, UE and Ateneo reportedly pulled out Dindo Pumaren and Sandy Arespacochaga from the national youth team to concentrate on coaching their respective school teams in the UAAP. They will be replaced by Derick Pumaren and our assistant coach Tonichi Yturri. While the youth team is participating in the Stankovic Cup (July 23-27) and FIBA Asia Youth championship (August 28-September 5) tournaments, we will lose three of our coaching staff, with only Tyrone Bautista and Cholo Villanueva on our bench during these periods. Bro. Bernie mentioned that La Salle will not request the UAAP board to reschedule our games. Talk about honoring our commitment to the national team!

The team is probably at 60-70% of its peak performance at present, and given the strength of the competition and the handicaps the team is operating under, the first round figures to be moderately successful. A 4-3 finish is probably realistic at this point.