Entering the NCAA Season 94 Seniors Basketball Tournament, the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers look different. Gone are lead Bombers Teytey Teodoro and Ervin Grospe. Foreign student-athletes Abdulwahab Abdulrazak and Abdoul Poutuouchi are also out.
This is not the usual Heavy Bombers that have been contenders every season.
“Actually, ine-expect ko yan eh. We’re a new team, rebuilding. Ang sabi ko lang sa kanila, mag-hustle lang kayo,” said ninth-year JRU head coach Vergel Meneses.
In their first game however, the youth of the Heavy Bombers showed.
Behind Jed Mendoza and RJ David, the Heavy Bombers sliced a once 13-point Mapua Cardinals lead down to just four early in the final frame. But JRU could not sustain the momentum, falling on their very own floor, 72-60.
“Yung Mapua, hindi naman parang Lyceum o San Beda pero they keep on working hard. Ang puhunan nitong kabila, effort lang. They trust one another,” lamented Meneses.
“‘Yung sa amin kanina, expected ko na ‘yun kasi bago lahat eh. Yung iba diyan, dumating three weeks lang. Yung [John] Santos, wala pang isang buwan.”
Meneses is looking at Mendoza to glue things together for the Heavy Bombers. The third-year guard is seen as the next in line to lead JRU the same way Philip Paniamogan, Paolo Pontejos, and Teytey Teodoro did during that time.
The problem is that last season’s Most Improved Player forced his shot during the game, taking 11 attempts as he bullied his way into the paint.
That is why Meneses is imposing a challenge on the floor general.
“Siguro baka hindi pa niya kayang i-handle yung pressure. ‘Di naman ako nagkukulang ng sabi sa kanya na hindi porke you’re the captain ball, go-to guy, or leader, you will not pass the ball,” hopes Meneses.
“I hope after this na talo kami, kailangan ma-realize niya yun.”