WATCH THE THRONE: DLSU eyeing back-to-back championships

Santino Honasan on Sep 08, 2017 09:18 PM
WATCH THE THRONE: DLSU eyeing back-to-back championships
LET'S DO IT AGAIN. Reigning MVP Ben Mbala and defending champion DLSU are taking aim at back-to-back UAAP men's basketball titles.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 16-1, champion

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Ben Mbala, Aljun Melecio, Kib Montalbo, Ricci Rivero

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Santi Santillan

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Jason Perkins, Julian Sargent, Thomas Torres, Jeron Teng

After a two-year absence, the UAAP men's basketball title is back in Taft Avenue.

Coming into Season 79, many pegged the De La Salle Green Archers to go all the way, backed by a bunch of talented additions which included would-be season MVP Ben Mbala, as well as a new coach in the form of Aldin Ayo, the same man who led an all-Filipino Letran squad to the NCAA Season 91 title.

Employing Ayo's brand of 'Mayhem' basketball, the Green Archers dominated the season, finishing the eliminations with a league-best 13-1 card, while going unbeaten in the semis and finals to claim their ninth men's basketball crown.

All of that however, is now history.

As Season 80 draws closer, the reigning kings of UAAP men's basketball get ready to defend their throne and at the same time look to do something that they haven't done since the early naughts: claim back-to-back championships.

While they still remain the consensus favorites, Season 80 could be a more challenging season for the Green Archers, with the departure of key rotation cogs in Jason Perkins, Julian Sargent, and Thomas Torres.

The biggest loss however: Jeron Teng who, for the better part of his UAAP career, carried the 'King Archer' monicker. Last season, Teng finished third in MVP voting,

"Malaki yung kawalan natin dun sa mga veterans na nawala. Kasi kami ngayon, bata yung mga players namin. We have a young team," said coach Ayo.

Perkins, Sargent, Torres, and of course Teng, all played pivotal roles in their Season 79 championship run, but with these four gone, Ayo expects his second line to respond.

"I’m expecting yung mga second stringers ko last year mag respond sa bigger roles nila ngayon. Excited kami kasi tagal kami nag prepare."

"Katulad ng sinabi ko kanina sana mag respond yung mga second stringers last year na right now mas malaki yung responsibility nila." Ayo added.

The Taft-based squad may have lost a handful of veterans, but one thing that they will certainly retain this coming season will be depth.

Reigning MVP Mbala and reigning Rookie of the Year Aljun Melecio are back in green and white, along with veteran co-captains Kib Montalbo and Prince Rivero, and seasoned big man Abu Tratter.

Bannering the second unit that Ayo talked about will be the likes of Andrei Caracut, fan-favorite Ricci Rivero, Justine Baltazar, and Jollo Go to name a few.

"The system is more embedded in us na. The players we have right now have been training with coach Aldin for the last two years, so medyo mas okay yung pag-cope namin sa system." shared co-skipper Rivero.

As for the now-famous 'Mayhem' style of play, Coach Ayo says that it's still there.

""It has always been there, yung 'Mayhem' na yun. Actually it’s not only on defense, offense also."

Opposing teams need to take note.

"Our system is evolving. We’re doing new things because of course, you have to present new things sa table kasi nag-a-adjust naman yung mga teams sa amin eh. You can’t rely on the things you did last season. Nag-e-evolve yung sistema namin and madami kaming ginagawa na bago na hopefully maging effective." Ayo added.

The last DLSU team to go back-to-back ultimately ended up winning four straight men's basketball championships.

While it's definitely way too early to talk about four-peats, winning two straight championships definitely isn't outside the realm of possibility.

Especially with a stacked Green Archers team such as this one.

"Di ako masyado nag-iisip ngayon kasi pag inisip mo nang inisip, mape-pressure ka eh. I just do my best and hopefully my best is enough to get me another championship." said Ayo.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @honasantino.

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