As one of the proudest collegiate programs in the country, University of Santo Tomas badly wanted its campaign in the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Basketball Tournament to end later rather than sooner.
It is easy to forget that the Growling Tigers had a promising start to the season – they defeated Adamson University on opening day.
But it sure went downhill after that.
UST then went on to lose the rest of their elimination round assignments. The España school eventually ended the tournament with a 1-13 record.
“Grabe struggles and adjustments,” said UST head coach Bal David. “Marami kaming struggle pero I keep telling the kids (na) wag lang sila mag-qui-quit.
“Struggle after struggle. Kailangan same direction kami. Walang mag-qui-quit, bibitaw, and all.”
In a sense, David was dealt a tough hand coming into the UST program. He entered the team two months into the season. Next thing he knew, the likes of Gani Stevens and Kean Baclaan left for other UAAP schools.
David needed to work doubly hard to not just recruit players, but to also integrate himself and his coaching staff with the holdovers from Season 84.
“Madami akong dapat pag-aralan kasi iba’t ibang karakter ang mga bata,” said David. “Kailangan mag-adjust ako sa kanila. Hindi puro sila yung mag-adjust.
“Nakikita ko naman merong improvement. Although talaga marami kaming bad habits eh. Hindi lang mga players. Pati ang coaches marami ring bad habits. We have to correct that.”
Despite everything, hope always springs eternal in the UAAP. A varsity program needs to get its recruitment right to stand a chance every year.
In the current landscape, though, things are always easier said than done. There are so many factors that can sway a player to commit and even transfer to another program.
“Ang UST is basic lang eh. For now, basic lang talaga eh,” explained David. “Basic lang talaga. Medyo hirap kaming, you know, mag-recruit ng ‘high-value’ na sinasabi nila.”
Amidst all of these things, David and his staff are working very hard to get some newcomers for the team.
While his assistant Rodney Santos said that the school needs “resources” recently, the Ginebra great wants his recruits to consider UST because of some values that have no price.
“I agree with coach Rodney naman, pero siyempre, maganda pa ring masanay na wala yun eh. Alam mo yun? Mas matamis eh,” he said. “Old school ba – passion and love for the game. Mas gusto ko yun eh. Kahit ba sabihin ng nakakarami na ‘di na uso yun. I don’t care. I still believe in love and passion.
“Kaya na-achieve namin yung dream namin, because of the love of the game and passion. Pwede secondary ang sinasabi ni coach Rodney na resources, pero I still stick with the love and the passion.”