Since the pandemic began, the basketball Gods have not smiled upon the University of Santo Tomas men’s basketball program.
There was an exodus of players after the infamous Sorsogon bubble incident involving then-Growling Tigers head coach Aldin Ayo in August 2020.
Enter Jinino Manansala as the new chief tactician of the once-proud UST basketball team. His team in UAAP Season 84, held in a bubble setup, only managed a woeful 3-11 record.
Subsequently, he was moved to the Tiger Cubs program while UST legend Bal David took over the collegiate program for Season 85.
That was when the Tigers hit rock bottom, winning only one of their 14 games, while joint-sixth teams University of the East and Far Eastern University each won five games.
Then came the return that the Thomasian community had long been waiting for. Pido Jarencio, who steered UST to its last men’s basketball title 17 years ago, was signed by the school to a three-year deal last February.
With the results of the past two seasons not favoring the Tigers, the once-roaring “Go USTe!” cheer grew weaker and weaker.
“Bubuhayin natin. Bubuhayin natin lahat yan,” said Jarencio on the Thomasian community come Season 86.
During the Season 86 collegiate basketball press conference at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, Jarencio declared that his team would carry the same mantra that UST rode to its 18th crown in 2006: Puso. Pride. Palaban. is back.
“Coming to Season 86, excited at masaya kami and sinabi ko nga, kami magiging competitive basta dala namin ang UST, may Puso, Pride, Palaban,” shared Jarencio, who played for UST back in his college days.
However, Jarencio also tempered expectations, acknowledging that his team is trying to recover from a dismal 1-13 season.
Leading the way for UST will still be up-and-coming junior guard Nic Cabañero and will be supported by Senegalese big man Adama Faye.
Incoming sophomore players Kenji Duremdes and Echo Laure will also aim for more significant roles, while rookies Mark Llemit and SJ Moore will look to make an impact in their first year.
“Goal? Makapanalo lang kaming isa goal na namin yun. Makadalawa sobra na yun. Basta laro lang one game at a time, tingnan natin diba kung makachamba,” said Jarencio, emphasizing their one game at a time mentality.
“Yung maipagmamalaki hindi pa natin alam kasi galing sa 1-13 last year eh. Tingnan natin one game at a time kung magimprove yung team, ayos. Kung hindi naman, patay sa akin ‘tong mga ‘to (players).”