UAAP: For a change, La Salle is actually the darkhorse
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Sep 06, 2018 07:34 PM
Kib Montalbo and the rest of La Salle are happy to fly under the radar in UAAP Season 81
HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 12-2 after eliminations, 1-0 in Final Four, 1-2 in Finals, runner-up
YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Justine Baltazar, Andrei Caracut, Jollo Go, Aljun Melecio, Kib Montalbo, Santi Santillan
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Brandon Bates, Taane Samuel, Encho Serrano, Mark Dyke (returning), Louie Gonzalez (coach)
GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Ben Mbala, Prince Rivero, Ricci Rivero, Abu Tratter, Aldin Ayo (coach)
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM LA SALLE?
Bar none, De La Salle University took the biggest losses among all teams from a year ago.
Let’s all count those subtractions, shall we? Two-time MVP Ben Mbala, Mythical selection Ricci Rivero, veteran bigs Prince Rivero and Abu Tratter, and champion coach Aldin Ayo.
“We’ve missed big-time players, but I always reminded them it’s not about having the best players. In order for us to be successful, we just need to be consistent in working hard and doing what’s for the greater good.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez
Still, that doesn’t mean that the Green Archers are no longer here – especially not if the guard troika of Andrei Caracut Aljun Melecio, and Kib Montalbo has anything to do with it.
“Ngayon pa lang, sinasabi ko na sa kanilang tatlo na whatever mari-reach namin this season, malaki magiging role nila. They have to know where to put everybody na magiging successful sila.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez
And with Mbala gone, we can just expect Justine Baltazar to rise – as he was always meant to do after graduating high school when he was the most terrifying tower. Also, Santi Santillan is right there by his side as well as young guns Brandon Bates and Taane Samuel.
All told, La Salle’s losses were huge, but that won’t be enough to keep them out of contention for the Final Four.
WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM LA SALLE?
Of course, the Cerberus in the backcourt will dictate the tempo for this team – Caracut will make plays, Melecio will score, and Montalbo will be a force on both ends.
Up front, Baltazar is out to fulfill his potential as a two-way nightmare for opponents – and you can just look back to his time as center for Nazareth School of National University to have an idea of what that is.
The real game-changer for La Salle, however, is Encho Serrano who once took the country by storm in his rookie season in the UAAP Juniors. Since then, he has gone missing and then gotten found, but the talent that made him the top high school player in the country – yes, over even Kai Sotto – is still here.
WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR LA SALLE?
For the first time in years, everybody is doubting La Salle – meaning for the first time in years, they are the underdogs.
“Yung pagiging underdog namin, okay lang yun kasi we’re still in the rebuilding stage. The mantra right now is to be the best at getting better.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez
This early, the new-look Green Archers are already priding themselves on having no glitz and glamour and just being all business.
That underdog mentality and that workmanlike attitude may just be enough for them to be the pleasant surprises of the season.
“Coming to this season, at least, yung pressure, nandun sa iba. Pero I know if you’re playing for La Salle, you’re 100 percent motivated as well.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez
WHERE WOULD LA SALLE BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 81?
La Salle will be fighting with its all for a Final Four berth.
“Basta ang expectations ko lang sa kanila is ibigay lang nila effort palagi. Wala naman akong hinihinging imposible. Very clear naman ako sa kanila na as you give that effort, we will be fine.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez
That’s far from sure for them, but what’s certain is that the Green Archers have both the talent and the determination to get there.
The championship, or even the Finals, may be an even farther reach, but this new-look team may very well be satisfied with just a playoff berth.
“What we’re doing is we’re really going through the process. It’s long-term.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez
WHEN IS LA SALLE’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 81?
La Salle sets out to prove everybody wrong when they take on fellow playoff hopeful Far Eastern University on September 9.
Of course, It All Begins Here on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.