‘Hungrier, more promising’ Tigers ready to finally deliver for UST

Alvin Laqui on Sep 01, 2016 07:32 PM
‘Hungrier’ Tigers ready to finally deliver for UST
WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY. The rebuilding Tigers have a glaring hole left by the departure of their long-time stars, but that and all of the offcourt drama they endured have only made them hungrier.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 11-3

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Kent Lao, Marvin Lee, Louie Vigil

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Boy Sablan (coach), Reggie Boy Basibas (returning), Renzo Subido (returning), William Afoukwah, Tsutomu Tateishi

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Bong Dela Cruz (coach), Karim Abdul, Ed Daquioag, Kevin Ferrer

For a team that had only three months of preparation for UAAP Season 79 – and with a new head coach at the helm at that – University of Sto. Tomas actually sound composed.

The Growling Tigers are handling the departure of three key players in stride and this early sign of positivity, even with a roster scarce of veterans, could be attributed to the brotherhood they developed over the months of drama that even saw their coach get booted out for alleged abuse.

Based on those three months of preparation, new head coach Boy Sablan has already seen their willingness to learn and has expressed his full confidence in them. “Yung improvements maganda kasi yung mga players na-adapt agad yung system na gusto ko,” he said.

He continued, “Besides matatalino mga bata so nakuha nila yung gusto naming mga coaches. Yung mga gusto naming ipagawa sa kanila, nagawa naman nila.”

This has been echoed by the players as well. As second-year player Marvin Lee encapsulates, “Walang star-star, lahat kami magtatrabaho para sa team.”

This is a far cry from the formula UST used for each of their Finals runs in the last five years where they had a prototypical star – the “King Tiger” who not only led the team vocally, but also shouldered most of the offensive load. Think Jeric Teng or Kevin Ferrer.

This change in formula wasn’t a matter of choice.

UST lost three key players this season in Ferrer, Karim Abdul, and Ed Daquioag. All three were part of the consistent team that went to the semifinals four times in the past five years. Then of those four times, they earned a trip to the Finals in all but one of them, but fell just short of the elusive title each time.

Being confronted with the void left by the absence of those big names has already started to let new King Tiger Louie Vigil to reflect on the team’s inner workings. “Siyempre ‘di mawawala yung pride and ego. Last year kasi, ilang (player) kaming gustong may patunayan,” he confessed.

He also added, “Ngayon wala na yung ganung ego. As a team na (yung gusto naming patunayan).”

And in acknowledging the problem that has plagued them in recent times, signs of hope have beamed through. “Napilay yung lineup pero sinasabi ko, we have hungrier players right now, more promising than last year,” Vigil expressed.

However, UST didn’t have the luxury of time to rebuild as fully as they would’ve wanted. With only three months to prepare, Vigil revealed that there are still some “inconsistencies.”

Still, the Tigers had gone through so much in the offseason and got even closer because of it, that finding the inspiration to rebuild came almost naturally. As Vigil said, “Yung willingness naman ng team tsaka yung binigay na sistema ni coach na gusto niyang i-instill samin, naa-adapt naman namin kahit papano.”

As the team captain, Vigil is already extending his helping hand to his teammates in this adjustment. “As a leader (dapat) maging listener ka rin so lahat ng sentiments nila or problema nila, on and off the court, pinapakinggan ko,” he said.

Vigil’s maturity just may be rubbing off on his teammates, especially on sophomore Lee who contributed crucial minutes for the Tigers in last year’s Finals. “Tuloy-tuloy pa rin practice namin kahit wala kaming coach. Kami-kami na lang nagpa-practice kaya nandun pa rin yung condition namin, ‘di kami nagpabaya,“ he said.

Bottom line, Sablan assured his wards that he is nothing but optimistic about their new formula. “Ngayon, may playing time na all of them sa akin. Yun ang isang magandang nangyari sa amin, madami akong magagamit ngayon,” he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @alvinlaqui.

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