For the past decade, University of the Philippines Integrated School has produced few student-athletes who were promoted to Fighting Maroons.
In recent memory, the only ones able to join the seniors’ team were Diego Dario, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, and Will Gozum.
But the next batch of Junior Maroons will see four players who shone in the UAAP.
In Grade 12 right now are 6-foot-4 winger Jordi Gomez de Liaño and 6-foot guard Collin Dimaculangan. Then come next year, 6-foot-4 utility forward Aldous Torculas and 5-foot-11 scorer Ray Torres are graduating.
To background these high schoolers, Torres was the team’s leading scorer with 21.21 points per outing to go along with 8.07 rebounds and 2.43 assists. Torculas, on the other hand, was the team’s all-around guy, posting numbers of 11.64 points, 15.21 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.29 steals, and 2.29 blocks per game.
Then there’s Jordi, who is the team’s best knockdown shooter at 30.43-percent to average 13.0 markers per game. Dimaculangan, meanwhile, was the team’s glue guy with numbers of 8.67 points, 4.08 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per contest.
With all four graduating in the next few years, UP faces a problem — a good problem. With UP recruiting a plethora of blue-chippers in the off-season, what will happen to these four? Will the school let go of their homegrown studs?
Well, for head coach Bo Perasol, that is not the case.
“Oo naman, we would get them. Kaya nga nandiyan sila and they were recruited.”
Recruiting hard has been the name of the game for UP since Perasol took over back in 2016.
Unlike in the pros, the turnover of players in the collegiate game is extremely high. Perasol had to learn that the hard way when he was in Ateneo.
“Ang team kasi is hindi naman sureball. If there is one thing that I learned in college basketball, you can’t say that one player is magaling. It doesn’t work that way. For a team to be competitive, may mixture dapat of a semblance of continuity and competition,” shared Perasol, who steered UP to the UAAP Season 81 Finals.
“You have to compete for the slots. You have to fight for your slot.”
Planning ahead is the reason why UP got CJ Cansino, who will replace Ricci Rivero come Season 84. Then the likes of Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, and Bismarck Lina will one day replace Kobe Paras, Sam Dowd, and Noah Webb.
Then of course, there are the externals like injuries, player transfers, and academic ineligibility, which will all come into play in the formation of a stable team.
“If you’re going to look at our lineup, we only have seven players left from last season. Pagpasok ni Javi again next year, tapos na siya. After two seasons of Juan, tapos na rin siya,” he continued.
“It’s not thinking about just getting of players, it’s creating a pipeline. There’s nothing definite and [no such thing as] a perfect program. It doesn’t mean that if you’re good in high school, it will translate into college. And of course, may binabagayan din ‘yung players, plus let’s not forget about injuries.”
Regarding the quartet, Perasol stressed that they are one foot inside the seniors’ team’s door. Now it’s up to them to first get noticed, then be better.
And one of the best ways is to win, of course.
Last season, UPIS sat dead last in the standings with a 1-13 record.
With the UAAP Season 83 High School tournament still unsure of taking place, both Gomez de Liaño and Dimaculangan have to make themselves better through individual workouts.
“So in high school, your guarantee is to perform. It doesn’t mean that if you are in the program, sureball ka. It means that you are in the program and that we will help you. But it’s still on you on how you will make yourself better. These players will realize that,” said Perasol.
“We can’t just talk about ‘yung paano si ganiyan na nasa high school. The best way you could do is to perform — work hard, work smart, get your teams to win, then you will get noticed.”
For normal students, passing the UPCAT is one thing. Surviving the next few years is another.
The same can be said about the Fighting Maroons.
“Within a team, maglalabanlaban pa ‘yan. It’s not just composition, but also playing time. ‘Yung question of being in the lineup is a little bit light compared to how much playing time you will get. If you get inside, iba pa ‘yung question,” shared Perasol.
And so the quartet has to ready to go to war every day once they head to college.
In an ideal world, they would be the next in line. But it’s up to them to grab the imaginary brass ring.
“We are talking about a few years from now. They will be reserved to prepare for the graduation of Kobe, Ricci, Noah, [David] Murrell, James Spencer. Ibig sabihin nandiyan lahat ‘yan, but nandiyan pa rin ‘yung paliwanag ko sa kanila na kailangan pagtrabahuan nila,” Perasol thought.
“You will be considered first dahil nandiyan kayo sa programa, but if somebody is going to be better than you, kailangan mo lagpasan ‘yan. There are no priorities. But if pareho kayong magaling, ikaw ‘yung bibigyan ng priority.”