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Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team’s biggest question for Season 85


The UAAP Season 85 press conference just happened yesterday, and each team fielded questions about their upcoming campaigns.

Not surprisingly, the soundbites have revolved around who the favorites are. The coaches were also asked about their mindset heading into Season 85. Perhaps they also commented on whether Player X was healthy for the upcoming men’s basketball tournament wars.

However, one question is more crucial than all others for each of the UAAP’s eight teams. In other words, each team’s on-court response to their respective biggest questions will help determine its success during Season 85.

What’s the biggest question for each of the league’s eight teams? Read on.

Adamson University: Who is Jerom Lastimosa’s wingman?

UAAP-84-MBB-ADU-vs.-UP-Joem-Sabandal-2725 Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsJerom Lastimosa led the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament in scoring earlier this year, and he should do it again. He will be the face of the Soaring Falcons in Season 85, but the big question is who’ll be his wingman?

Lenda Douanga is the obvious choice as he was the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder in Season 84. That’s not saying much, though, since he put up just 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Someone else clearly has to step up if the Falcons are to barge into the Final Four again.

I’m hoping that “someone” can be Joem Sabandal, Cedrick Manzano, or maybe even rookie Ray Allen Torres.

Ateneo de Manila University: Is Forthsky Padrigao ready as PG1?

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-ADU-Forthsky-Padrigao-5927 Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsMuch of Ateneo’s fortunes will depend on three elements: Ange Kouame’s health, Dave Ildefonso’s scoring, and Forthsky Padrigao’s playmaking. Since coach Tab Baldwin took over the Blue Eagles program, he’s had a steady stream of composed and solid playmakers. Matt Nieto, SJ Belangel, and Tyler Tio come to mind.

Now the reins are being held by Padrigao, who despite carrying a decorated CV (i.e., Batang Gilas star, Basketball Without Borders Asia MVP, Nike All-Asia Basketball Camp Mythical Five, UAAP Juniors Mythical “Six”), has never seemed to quell the doubts of fans from outside looking in. If he can steady the ship for Ateneo this season, the Eagles should be in great shape to return to the Finals.

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De La Salle University: Did Evan Nelle just overpromise?

UAAP-84-MBB-DLSU-vs.-UP-Evan-Nelle-1153 Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsAce guard Evan Nelle just declared via the UAAP Season 85 press conference that DLSU should be the favorite. He believes they’re number one.

Is that just the patented DLSU swag? Is it complacency after winning the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup? Or is it just a leader sowing confidence in his teammates?

Whatever it is, Nelle has certainly created expectations for the Green Archers. There’s an interesting corporate adage that goes, “underpromise, overdeliver.” What Nelle has said certainly runs counter to that.

Will he lead the Archers into delivering on his lofty promise? We’ll see. The talent is certainly there. The desire, too. Now, it’s all about execution.

Far Eastern University: What do we have with L-Jay Gonzales?

UAAP84-Mens-Basketball-FEU-vs-DLSU-Louell-Gonzales-1-scaled Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsWith RJ Abarrientos now plying his trade in Korea, the mantle of leadership in FEU has fallen on the shoulders of LJ Gonzales.

Coming out of high school, Gonzales was thought of as maybe the next coming of former UAAP MVP RR Garcia. Gonzales certainly hasn’t done enough to win MVP, but maybe this is his year.

The majority of Abarrientos’s 12.6 shots per game from last season should now belong to either Gonzales or sharpshooter Xyrus Torres. That means Gonzales should lead FEU in scoring. Keep in mind, though, that he also led the Tamaraws in assists and steals last season. He was even their second-best rebounder behind Emmanuel Ojuola. All the makings of an MVP are there, so here’s to Gonzales finally fulfilling his potential.

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National University: Is Omar John more Gaye or Mbe?

FOEO-MBB-Omar-John-2-scaled Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsNew NU foreign student-athlete Omar John looks very intriguing. He averaged just 7.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks as the Bulldogs swept their 2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup campaign, but he did record 12 points and 8 boards in their title-clincher over FEU.

Having said that, as we enter Season 85, will John be more Issa Gaye or Emmanuel Mbe? Gaye averaged a paltry 2.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last year. In contrast, Mbe was an MVP-caliber beast in his years with NU about a decade ago. Coach Jeff Napa is probably hoping John can be more of the latter as they envision making it to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.

University of the East: Is Harvey Pagsanjan just a scorer?

UAAP-84-MBB-UE-vs.-UP-Harvey-Pagsanjan-2654 Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsFormer Hope Christian HS and Batang Gilas star Harvey Pagsanjan was born to score. He led UE in Season 84 with 13.4 points per game, though he certainly needs to improve his shooting splits. He shot just 32.1-percent from the field, 24.2-percent from three, and 66.2-percent from the line last season.

Entering Season 85, we want to see more growth in Pagsanjan’s game in addition to greater accuracy. He was UE’s second-leading rebounder last season, but that was mainly due to the absence of a solid big man for the team. He also had 2.0 dimes per game, which is definitely something to build on. If Pagsanjan shows more well-rounded growth in Season 85, he should soon be a prime prospect at the pro level.

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University of the Philippines: Who inherits Ricci Rivero’s spot (and shots)?

UAAP-84-MBB-DLSU-vs.-UP-Gerry-Abadiano-0888 Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports newsBy the time UP finished its amazing title run several months ago, Rivero was the team’s leader in points, total threes made, total minutes played, and total shots attempted. Now that Rivero is playing professionally in Taiwan, who takes his spot and his shots?

I suppose most of his shots will be distributed amongst Zavier Lucero, Carl Tamayo, and JD Cagulangan (maybe even newbie Ashon Andrews will get some), but remember that CJ Cansino is also no longer around. That’s even more shots to distribute.

I personally want to see more shots given to both Gerry Abadiano and Terrence Fortea. Those two were offensive haymakers in their high school days, and I’d love for at least one of them to break out in a big way in Season 85. If that happens, the Maroons’ chances of repeating significantly go up.

University of Santo Tomas: Can Adama Faye make an impact?

UAAP-Season-85-UST-Growling-Tigers Hoop Nut: Every UAAP team's biggest question for Season 85 ADMU AdU Bandwagon Wire Basketball DLSU FEU NU UAAP UE UP UST  - philippine sports news

(C) Ryan Roxas

This is Nic Cabañero’s team, but he alone cannot carry the Tigers back into Final Four contention. Now that the squad’s frontline has been suddenly depleted with the departures of Sherwin Concepcion and Bryan Santos, even more pressure will be on new foreign student-athlete Adama Faye to deliver.

Take note that UST was at or near the bottom in many key performance indicators last season. They were dead last in points in the paint while second-to-the-last in rebounding and blocked shots. Coach Bal David will definitely hope that Faye can rectify that situation, though the odds are stacked against the big man and his undersized frontcourt teammates.

All UAAP games stream live on GigaPlay presented by Yamaha. Download it now on Android or IOS.

Written By

Enzo Flojo is a columnist for FIBA and an assistant coach for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets. His motto in life is to never be afraid to lose.


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