La Salle all set to go All-Filipino in UAAP 82

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Aug 21, 2019 04:34 PM
La Salle all set to go All-Filipino in UAAP 82
La Salle is the lone team in the UAAP to be without a foreign student-athlete

De La Salle University will be unique come the UAAP 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Among the eight teams, the Green Archers are the only ones without a foreign student-athlete.

A year ago, Kiwi Taane Samuel manned the middle for the green and white and before him, former MVP Ben Mbala patrolled the paint.

Now, however, La Salle will be entrusting the inside to Mythical Team member Justine Baltazar as well as Filipino-Australian bruiser Brandon Bates, sweet-shooting Ralph Cu, and raw project Christian Manaytay.

The good news is that the Taft-based team is also welcoming with open arms a trio of Filipino-foreigners in 6-foot-9 James Laput and 6-foot-7 Jamie Orme as well as 6-foot Keyshawn Evans.

The even better news is that Baltazar, who already impressed with per game numbers of 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and 1.3 assists in 27.6 minutes and a Mythical Team selection last season, is nothing but ready and raring to take another step forward.

"Sa akin, ibibigay ko pa rin lahat ng best ko," he said. "Nandyan din naman mga teammate ko kaya kahit wala kaming (foreign student-athlete), lalaban kami, ibibigay namin lahat ng kaya namin."

Still, the 6-foot-7 pride of Pampanga has a tall task in front of him, matching up with the likes of 6-foot-11 Congolese Lenda Douanga of Adamson University, 6-foot-10 Ivorian Ange Kouame of Ateneo de Manila University, 6-foot-7 Emman Odjuola of Far Eastern University, 6-foot-10 Senegalese Issa Gaye of National University, 6-foot-9 Senegalese Adama Diakhite of University of the East, 6-foot-8 Nigerian Bright Akhuetie of the University of the Philippines, and 6-foot-6 Beninese Soulemane Chabi Yo of University of Sto. Tomas.

That means that the backcourt spearheaded by team captain Andrei Caracut and scoring guard Aljun Melecio will also have to do much more heavy lifting if the Green Archers are to return to the Final Four after a one-year absence.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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