Twin towers? How about triple towers for La Salle?

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Apr 21, 2018 08:11 PM
Twin towers? How about triple towers for La Salle?
Taane Samuel (left) and Brandon Bates (right) connived with Justine Baltazar and Santi Santillan to power La Salle to an impressive debut in the 2018 Filoil Preseason

With the departure of Ben Mbala, De La Salle University was left in the hands of fiery guards Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, and Kib Montalbo.

In the opening of the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup, however, it wasn’t that high-octane backcourt which was doing the steering.

Rather, it was the fearsome foursome of 6-foot-8 Taane Samuel, 6-foot-8 Brandon Bates, 6-foot-7 Justine Baltazar, and 6-foot-5 Santi Santillan who took center stage as the Green Archers dropped loaded University of the Philippines, 82-79, on Saturday.

Pride of Pampanga Baltazar top-scored with 16 points on top of six rebounds, three assists, and two blocks; Kiwi reinforcement Samuel posted 12 points and seven rebounds; Filipino-Australian Bates had nine points; and Cebuano stud Santillan had nine points and six rebounds.

Every time La Salle took charge in the contest, three of their four bigs were on the floor – overturning their expected strength of small ball and going big, very big, instead.

And in the end, the Taft towers also connived to go at Fighting Maroon powerhouse Bright Akhuetie who was frustrated into 12 points, 15 rebounds, and seven turnovers.

First-year head coach Louie Gonzalez was nothing but satisfied with their two-way effort. “They all delivered. Siyempre, si Samuel and si Brandon, they’ve been away from home so andami pa nilang adjustment, pero good thing, nag-deliver pa rin sila,” he shared.

A step forward was already expected from Baltazar who is now being tasked to fill the void left behind by back-to-back MVP Ben Mbala while Santillan has always been solid.

And so, it was Samuel and Bates who truly opened eyes in their first big game. “The one big adjustment for these two is the height of their opponents. They’re so used to playing with players their height so now, they have to adjust,” their mentor said.

Indeed, while he impressed, Bates said he can do much more – especially on the glass. “I just went out there and did my thing, but I’m still a bit disappointed, not getting as many rebounds,” he said, after only hauling in three rebounds.

The good news is that in Samuel’s eyes, they are already on their way into being well-adjusted. “As soon as we started training, coach said we needed to be ready for the physicality. Being in a new environment in the Philippines, coach told us we’re gonna get banged up,” he said.

He then continued, “We just need to roll with it and keep our heads on straight.”


Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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