The UP Fighting Maroons are trying a new route in their journey to contender status in the UAAP Men’s Basketball tournament.
This new route, however, involves running almost the entire professional-amateur circuit.
The Diliman cagers started their 2015-16 season by joining the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup finishing the tournament with a 1-7 slate. Some of the squad’s Team A and Team B players also joined the Filsports Basketball Association tournament, where the Fighting Maroons finished as champions.
Then came the UAAP men’s basketball tournament. The Fighting Maroons had a promising start in the tournament with a 2-0 slate. However, bad habits by the team resurfaced, resulting in just a single win in their next 12 games.
As the saying goes, well, building winners takes more than one night.
“We joined the FBA, a small league, just to help with team building. These wins in the smaller leagues give the kids the idea of winning,” team manager Dan Palami shared with Tiebreaker Times during the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup tournament last April.
To keep the Fighting Maroons active, they again joined the FBA in the league’s second conference and gave the PBA D-League a try as the UP-QRS/Jam Liner Maroons.
With a team composed of collegiate stars Kevin Ferrer, Gelo Alolino, Kyle Neypes, and Alfred Batino; pro player Juneric Baloria and D-League mainstay Raymond Aguilar; together with seven players from the Fighting Maroons, the team is pencilled in as one of the favorites to win the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup.
In their D-League debut, Jam Liner staved off fellow school-based squad BDO-National University. Incoming UP junior Paul Desiderio led the way, scoring a game-high 24 points on an efficient 7/8 shooting from the field. However, it was the team’s reinforcements that played the majority of crunch time, giving them the win.
“Playing in the first game and playing with a lot of different styles, and in the end you win, it’s a good thing,” Ward said.
Ward likes what he is seeing in the D-League and his team, and hopes that the experience gained by the Maroons will carry over to the UAAP Season. “The thing is the teams that played in the D-League in the past have went on and become successful last year,” he said.
“It can’t hurt, it only helps players in college and in the pros to get some experience.”
The Fighting Maroons, though, committed 18 turnovers in the game and a woeful 34 fouls that kept the game close all throughout the fourth quarter. Ward believes that the team’s composition of professional, pro-bound, and collegiate players will take some time to get used to. “Put it this way. It’s going to take time to adjust,” Ward shared.
“They know this will be a great experience and a good opportunity for us to learn from the UST and NU guys.”
The team’s officials are hoping that the veterans, majority of them proven winners, can impart their knowledge and experience to the Fighting Maroons in their UAAP Season 79 campaign.