The future begins here.
The words are a slogan, a mantra, almost a prayer.
For all incoming Lasallian froshies, this is an all-familiar statement that they hear upon being admitted into the University, and for the Green Archers, there couldn’t be a more apt battle cry in the upcoming diamond season of the UAAP. A new system, a new coaching staff, and several new players heralded that change had indeed been the name of the game for the Archers during the offseason, and if their performance in the preseason would serve as a barometer, then it is clear that the change that had been ushered in the team had already been bearing fruit.
Despite succumbing to teams like the UE Red Warriors and the Mapua Cardinals during the eliminations, the team was able to win a string of stirring victories against powerhouses like the San Sebastian Stags and the San Beda Red Lions en route to the Last Dance of the Fil-Oil summer tourney, only to yield to the revamped NU Bulldogs. But notwithstanding that loss in the finals match, the team had given the La Salle faithful many reasons to feel optimistic about their chances in contending for the UAAP crown.
Foremost among these reasons is the renaissance of big man Norbert Torres, who terrorized the shaded lane in the preseason by bullying his way past phalanxes of defenders on his way to the basket. No longer was he seen muffing three-pointers. Instead, he became the recipient of errant passes as he barrelled his way deep in the post to score buckets, norming a double-double average of 12 points and 10 rebounds in the summer tourney before being named as an addition to the Mythical Five.
The mere sight of former Xavier Stallion Jeron Teng in a La Salle uniform was likewise able to make Archers fans giddy as students on the first day of vacation for this season, and after an auspicious debut in the summer tourney, he is ready to become the yardstick by which all rookies will be measured this season. Mac-Mac Tallo, a point guard out of Cebu who almost donned a Blue Eagle jersey, will be another new addition for the Archers, and he likewise showcased his wares by leading the team in assists during the preseason.
But a few flies in the ointment were also exposed during the preseason, most notoriously their free-throw shooting, which has improved compared to seasons past, but is still low compared to that of other teams. Still, a new season offers another chance for the Green Archers to begin their ascent towards the championship. “We are happy right now that we are improving,” said Head Coach Gee Abanilla during the press conference, and the team will only continue to improve as the season goes on.
The future truly does begin here for the Green Archers, and they can only go up and forward from where they are.
Last year’s Record: 5-9 (6th) La Salle mustered a respectable 4-3 win-loss record in the first round, which had them at the tied for the third and fourth in the rankings, but lost six of their final seven assignments, narrowly beating the UP Fighting Maroons for their only win of the second round.
Additions: Rookies: Jeron Teng, Mark Javen Tallo, Thomas Torres, Gabby Reyes/Returnee: Jed Manguera (Last played in the 2009 season)
Losses: Simon Atkins (graduation), Maui Villanueva (graduation), Dan Sara (transferred), Joseph Marata (transferred), Martin Reyes (reserve)
1. With Norbert Torres being named to the Mythical Five, and LA Revilla and Jeron Teng norming double figure averages in scoring during the preseason, is it safe to say that the team has found go-to-guys who will contribute regularly rather than sporadically?
The last Archers to average double figures during the UAAP Season were JV Casio and Rico Maierhofer, which was way back in 2008, which is also the last time the team made it to the Finals. But during the last two years, it was the Archers who led the league in bench scoring, which proves that they can get their points elsewhere. In fact, it was their defense that did them in last season and not their offense.
But that is not say that the team does not need a go-to guy, a King Archer who will strap the team on his back should there be a dearth in their offense and shine in endgame situations. Norbert Torres might be that guy after a stellar preseason, although a more likely candidate is Revilla, who is one of the team’s veterans and leaders. Teng has likewise proved in the preseason that he is not one who will buckle under pressure, but he is still a greenhorn who will still gain experience and improve as the season progresses.
2. How will the spate of preseason injuries affect the team come the UAAP season?
Oda Tampus was injured during the preseason game against Ateneo, Luigi Dela Paz was likewise injured during the preseason, this time during La Salle’s match against Letran. There were likewise games when Yutien Andrada did not suit up for the Archers. Arnold Van Opstal, meanwhile had been sidelined in the entirety of the preseason due to a nagging injury which he suffered even before the preseason.
But since all of these players have been included in the line-up and were already participating in their tune-up games and practices, they should be good to go come Sunday, when they will be clashing with the UP Fighting Maroons in their first game.
3. Coach Gee Abanilla stated that the team’s immediate goal will be to make the Final Four? Can they truly make it to the semis?
An open race if how Abanilla described this season, and he had the right of it, for with every team beefing up their roster with the addition of new players or the return of familiar faces, the race towards the top four spots will be a tight one. The Blue Eagles, Bulldogs, Tamaraws, and Growling Tigers will be jockeying for position among the Archers for the last two spots, and though La Salle may find themselves hard-pressed to nab one of the top two spots, the last two final four tickets may be a more feasible target for the team. And from there, anything can happen.
Outlook: More than anything, a return to normalcy and their winning ways is what this season will be for the Green Archers. There were days when the boys in Green-and-White were not merely respected, but feared. Opponents dreaded to cross paths with the team whenever they took the hardwood, but after missing the final four in two of the last three years, some of that fear might have been whisked away. But this season offers a golden chance for the Archers to return to their former habit of winning games, and with the coaches pointing and leading the team in the right direction, they might just find themselves in the thick of the fight for the final four slots.