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Ayo compares current Archers to championship Knights squad

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One month and 22 practices after his shocking move to Taft Avenue, former Letran Knights head coach and current La Salle Green Archers mentor Aldin Ayo speaks about his transition and his assessment of his current team.

“Nakaka-miss sila pero life goes on,” Ayo said, as he was surrounded with his former squad during the Collegiate Basketball Awards held in Kamayan-Saisaki in EDSA-Greenhills last Wednesday night. The NCAA Season 91 Seniors Basketball Champions spoke with their former head coach for the majority of the night and reminisced about the good times of their run during the event.

Leaving the past behind, Ayo knows that he has a tougher task ahead: bringing the UAAP crown back to Taft Avenue. According to accounts of his players, the 38-year-old head coach has set the team’s training to as early as 5 o’clock in the morning, far from the late morning practices of the team’s past regime. The move has slowly been embraced by the Green Archers.

Ayo sees a lot of similarities between his former Letran team and his current La Salle squad. “Sa ilalim, sa small, actually each department meron just like Letran. Point guard namin Mark Cruz, wing namin Racal, and before niyo nakilala si Sollano e sa amin Sollano na talaga siya. And of course ang mga favorite ko, si McJour Luib and Felix Apreku,” he shared as he looked back on his time at Muralla Street. Moreover, he added that this Green Archers squad is an all-around squad that has the chance to win even in the most dirtiest of games, just like the the current NCAA Champions. “Whatever it takes. We can do it sa takbuhan, kung mananalo kami sa half court gagawin namin,” he said. “Kahit sa gapangan gagawin namin basta lang manalo.”

With 17 players training under him right now, Ayo broke down and analyzed each of his players. First up was the first recruit he had signed for De La Salle University, current De La Salle-Zobel stalwart Aljun Melecio. “Si Aljun Melecio. Sa Jr. NBA pa lang magkasama na kami. Nakanood ako ng game niya sa juniors, iba na ang laro niya. Nag-mature, grabe,” he said about incoming La Salle freshmen. “Si Melecio almost the same with Mark Cruz pero mas malaki yung katawan ni Aljun.”UAAP 78 DLSU vs. AdU - Rivero-5009

Ayo, though, has a plethora of guards in his roster, with incoming super senior Thomas Torres and Kib Montalbo returning to the line-up. “Si Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo babalik. We still have Jollo Go, Andrei Caracut, Renzo Navarro. Madami pa ring ‘minions’,” he quipped.

Besides Melecio, Ayo also confirmed that former La Salle Greenhills Greeny Ricci Rivero has also committed to an already-stacked Green Archers squad. “Parang Jerrick Balanza naman si Ricci. Nag-eensayo na rin siya pero maganda rin yung pinapakita ng bata,” he said about Prince Rivero’s younger brother. “Ang importante sa mga yan yung adjustment nila sa college. Nag-commit na sila kayla boss [Danding Cojuangco].”

Speaking of a Rivero, the Sorsogon City-native praised Ricci’s older brother for his workhorse ethic, saying, “Mag-iimprove din si Prince kasi masipag yun at maganda yung attitude.”

Another big man who is set to make his debut for the Green-and-White is former SWU Cobra Ben Mbala. Ayo admitted that he had been surprised with the work ethic of the foreign student-athlete, saying, “si Ben Mbala sobrang sipag. Very competitive and ayaw magpahinga. Yun yung tipong kelangan mo kontrolin kasi baka masobrahan palagi.”

When pressed about how Mbala is compared to NCAA behemoths Ola Adeogun, Bright Akhuetie, and Allwell Oraeme, Ayo believes Mbala can have a greater career than them because of his passion for the game. “Iba yung ibibigay ng Mbala e. Foreigner na ugaling Pinoy kung maglaro,” he said.

However, one Archer who is unsure of his return is stretch forward Jason Perkins. “Hefty Lefty” is currently playing for PBA D-League powerhouse Caida Tile Masters and, as early as last season, has been planning to move into the professional ranks according to some sources. “Kelangan ko pa makita si Jason Perkins kasi dalawang beses pa lang nag-eensayo. He committed to boss before,” Ayo said. But for the champion head coach, he will work with what he has right now. “Sa akin kung ano lang meron yun lang tratrabahuin ko.”UAAPS78 - NU DLSU - Torralba Teng Torres

Even with a stacked line-up of blue chip recruits, Ayo still believes that King Archer Jeron Teng will still be the alpha of the team for next season. “Si Jeron, siya yung bridge ko sa mga players and he’s willing to sacrifice everything just to win,” Ayo said about Teng who he compared to Letran’s x-factor last season Luib. “Gusto manalo ng bata kasi last year na niya.”

He then warned that a different Teng will hit the floor next season, as he has drastically improved on the defensive end. “Same offense but very different on defense,” Ayo shared. “And he will distribute the ball more. He’s going to do everything for the team.”

With a perfect blend of big men and quick guards, Ayo has the luxury of mixing and matching his line-ups for the UAAP Season. However, he still gave a stern warning to the Archers that they need to take the practices seriously due to his defense-oriented system. “Lahat naman sila they still have to earn their minutes during practices,” he warned. “Defense-oriented kasi yung sistema ko.”

With a stacked line-up and a master motivator as head coach, the De La Salle University Green Archers are pencilled in by most pundits as the front-runners to win the UAAP Season 79 Men’s Basketball crown. Ayo, though, downplays this and is still wary of the other seven squads in the UAAP. “Lahat sila contenders. Ganun palagi trato ko every time I go in a competition. Walang ina-underestimate,” he closed.

“I always want to win and gagawin namin lahat para panalo. Pero you can’t always win, kelangan alam mo rin ang pakiramdam na matalo.”

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he had felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also directed at Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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