First-year head coach Chico Manabat of Arellano University still hopes for the return of Cade Flores and Travis Mantua to the team.
According to Manabat, both Flores and Mantua are still enrolled at Arellano and have two remaining playing years in their collegiate careers. Regardless of their decision, Manabat and the team will respect the outcome for Arellano.
“Sa amin kung ano man ‘yung decision ng bata o kung sino man ‘yung handler niya, we respect that,” Manabat expressed after their loss against National University, 68-82, on Wednesday. “Kami naman ano lang eh, siyempre umaasa pa rin kasi siyempre naka-enroll pa rin sila sa Arellano. ‘Yung management, Arellano family and community, we’re hoping na bumalik sila.
“And magandang addition sa amin ‘yun kung babalik sila. Kung hindi man, it’s start to rebuild our team ‘yun naman nag ginagawa namin ngayon. We’re just enjoying the preseason, and we’re just preparing for the NCAA games.”
Flores played a crucial role for the Chiefs last season, winning the Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in NCAA Season 98. He averaged 12.47 points, 10.07 rebounds, 1.93 assists, 1.67 steals, and 1.07 blocks in 15 games.
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-10 Mantua also made solid contributions to Arellano, averaging 4.81 points, 1.75 rebounds, and 1.38 assists per game.
Manabat is open to embracing the two players if they don’t push through in entering the 2023 PBA Rookie Draft.
If Flores and Mantua decide to stay with the Chiefs, their bond as a team would be unbreakable in the upcoming Season 99.
“Yes, of course,” answered the youthful Manabat if he will still welcome the two back. “Lahat naman sila, sila ‘yung talagang haligi ng team na ‘yun na binuo nila Coach Cholo [Martin].
“Grateful kami pagbumalik sila, siyempre ‘yun ang pinakamagandang gift sa amin ng year na ‘to na makasama sila ng teammates sila na dati niya naman na kasama, and mga ‘yun naman magkakapatid na yan eh.
“So ako naman as a new coach ng Arellano, siyempre gusto namin ‘yung mga nandiyan na, na talagang mga key players nila ‘yun ‘yung makita namin maglalaro sa NCAA,” he added.
However, if Flores and Mantua choose to pursue and succeed in the PBA Draft, Manabat will make the most of the remaining players to maximize the potential of the Chiefs in the next season.
Arellano still has pieces like Axel Doromal, Jade Talampas, Wilmar Oftana, Lars Sunga, Joshua Abastillas, and Danielle Mallari.
With this lineup, Manabat assures that the players left will step up to fill the void left by Flores and Mantua.
“And sabi ko nga kung nandiyan sila mas okay, kung wala rin sila mas okay din kasi mas nakikita namin ‘yung mga batang bago na talagang mag step up,” he shared.
“Siguro ‘yun ‘yung susundan nila sa yapak nila na nakuha nila dito sa achievements nila sa NCAA — nandito pa sila sa Arellano.”