After eliminating the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 82-75, to advance to their second straight UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals, second-year De La Salle University Green Archers head coach Aldin Ayo breathe a huge sigh of relief. Compared to his rookie year in La Salle, the Green Archers have figured in many close games, while the team needed to overcome adversities off the court to get to the Finals.
But as champions do, Ayo and the Green Archers flipped a switch in the second round. After losing twice in the first seven games of the season, La Salle went on a tear, as they will enter the last dance armed with an eight-game winning streak.
“We were focused. Same thing. We’re just focused on the game plan, especially on defense,” reflected Ayo, “Because when we were in the first round, there were lots of distractions, simple schemes on defense, sometimes we cannot execute, we tend to gamble a lot, and we were very undisciplined when we were in the first round. But they became different come the second round, because they just surrendered to the system, and overcame the distractions.”
What other distractions was the soft-spoken mentor talking about?
“Dengue is a distraction,” Ayo said, pertaining to sophomore Aljun Melecio’s battle with the illness last October. “Playing in the national team is a distraction,” he added, as reigning Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala missed the first two games of the season to play for Cameroon in the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket.
“Flu, fever, those are distractions.”
Knowing that this season will be tougher than his maiden campaign, Ayo equipped himself with added tools to combat the advancements his rival coaches were making. If the student-athletes of La Salle re-embraced his system late, he had to adapt to technology.
“Wala namang madali dito sa Manila eh. NCAA, UAAP, last year, this year, competitive ‘yung liga. So no room for complacency. We just have to keep on working. The coaches here are really, really good. So ubusan. Kahit kami sa coaching staff, ubusan kami,” shared the reigning UAAP/NCAA Press Corps Coach of the Year.
“Good thing madami kami ngayon, pumapasok yung scouting report, papasok yung tendencies. Because we didn’t have that last season, we just relied on our defense last season.”
With this, the Green Archers have given themselves a chance to watch the other bracket of the semifinals. They will either face arch-rivals Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles or fierce opponents Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the Finals.
When asked who they prefer to face, Ayo’s response was neither.
“Whoever is deserving. Sabi nila, be careful with what you wish for. Kasi if you pick someone, it adds to the pressure, because pinili mo tapos yun ang kalaban mo, right away hindi pa nag-uumpisa yung laro, motivated na yung kalaban mo,” said Ayo.
“So whoever is deserving, we’re going to play against them.”
Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’
Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.
After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.
The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.
“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.
“It’s just humbling, definitely.”
However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.
“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.
“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”
Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.
“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”
Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup
Stronger than ever
Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.
Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.
SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.
Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.
Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.
The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas
Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.
But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.
“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”
Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.
“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.
The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.
“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.
“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”
Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.
“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”
For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.
“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”
Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor
The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.
The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.
Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.
For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.
Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.
Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.