All is not well for suddenly rebuilding Mapua

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jul 05, 2017 07:37 PM
All is not well for suddenly rebuilding Mapua
BRICK-BY-BRICK. Atoy Co and Mapua are back to laying down the foundation for their future.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 12-6, 3rd place (Final Four)

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Andoy Estrella

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: N/A

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Joseph Eriobu, CJ Isit, Darrel Menina, Allwell Oraeme

Mapua University lost all of its eight games in the preseason – and none of them were even close.

That’s quite the fall for a team that has gone to back-to-back Final Fours in the NCAA.

And so, the Cardinals’ goal in the oncoming season is as modest as it could be. As head coach Atoy Co put it, “I’m just trying to be realistic, we just want to play. And then we’ll try to win as much as possible.”

The goal is modest as it could be, but still a tall task for a squad which had just lost the two-time MVP.

That much was apparent in the recently-concluded 2017 Filoil Flying V Preseason where Mapua had difficulty in even coming close to replacing Allwell Oraeme’s averages of 16 points, 20 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. “Winless kami because we lost out foreign player,” Co said.

He also added, “Yung consequence nun, siyempre all the players, bumaba yung morale.”

And it’s not just the Nigerian powerhouse who left. In all, the Cardinals only return three of the nine most used players a year ago.

Joining Oraeme on the list of who they lost are fellow starters Joseph Eriobu, CJ Isit, and Darrel Menina.

Still, Co reminded everybody that it’s not the end of the world. “Now, we are trying to raise the morale of the team, telling them it’s not the end of the ballgame. We have to keep going,” he said.

He then continued, “’Di pupwedeng we just let them play around and make fun of us. We have to show them we still have pride.”

After all, all the Philippine basketball legend wants to see from his boys is some fight. “There is good losing when you fight until the end. If you play lousy basketball lang, that is bad losing,” he expressed.

Unfortunately for the faithful over in Intramuros, thus far, Co has found no one stepping up to the challenge of replacing all they have lost. “Hindi pa ready mag-step up yung iba. Hindi pa. hindi pa,” he said.

Of the 11-man lineup submitted by Mapua, two are rookies, four are sophomores, and two are returnees.

And all of them are, simply put, struggling. “I don’t know if I’m talking to them in Chinese,” Co quipped. “I’m talking to them naman in English and in Filipino to make them understand.”

The Cardinals’ only ray of light comes in the form of veteran Andoy Estrella who, while skilled, will still have an unenviable task of leaping from being the first or fifth option to becoming the first, second, and third.

In the end, however, the graduating guard has the full faith of his mentor. “He’s the most senior on the team so I hope he will have the maturity because he’s our captain ball,” Co said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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