NU's marching orders in UAAP 77 title run: 'Kapalan ang mukha'
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jul 11, 2020 07:33 PM
Troy Rosario and the rest of National U knew full well each and every one of them had to step up to fill in the big shoes left by back-to-back MVP Ray Parks Jr.
National University transformed into a legitimate contender with the arrival of Ray Parks Jr.
After two MVPs and two Final Four berths, Parks Jr. decided to move on from the Bulldogs in UAAP 77.
And so, the blue and gold legitimate contender was, all of a sudden, without a main man.
That was very much evident from their very first practice sans the Filipino-American guard. "First practice namin before nung season, hindi namin alam yung identity namin. Hindi namin alam kung sino yung i-score e," Troy Rosario recalled on last Friday's The Prospects Pod.
He then continued, "Minsan, napuputukan na kami ng 24-second shot clock sa practice, wala pa ring tumitira. Hindi kami sanay eh."
Make no mistake, even without Parks Jr., National U remained loaded with Rosario, Gelo Alolino, Glenn Khobuntin, Cameroonian powerhouse Alfred Aroga, and up-and-comers J-Jay Alejandro and Pao Javelona.
Without a doubt, all of them had the capability to step up.
Only, none of them had the confidence to do so.
Slowly, but surely, though, that all changed. "Yung mga players, out to prove something. Lahat yan, lahat sila, eager sila to prove themselves na, you know, this is not a Bobby Ray Parks team, this is NU," head coach Eric Altamirano said.
He then continued, "Ang maganda naman sa team na yun, lahat ng naiwan, talagang capable of really helping the team get the championship."
Indeed, throughout the tournament, Coach Eric just kept getting the best out of his players - each and every one of them who had to come through for them to continue their contention. "Si Coach Eric, laging sinasabi sa amin na yung mga naiwan, kailangan nang kapalan yung mukha. Wala eh, wala nang ibang aasahan kundi yung mga beterano," Rosario recalled.
He then continued, "Sinasabi ni coach Eric na kung ikaw, parang mediocre lang nung mga nakaraang season, ngayon, kailangan mo nang kapalan yung mukha mo. Doon ako nagising eh."
And on the back of a dominant defense anchored by versatile Rosario and Cameroonian powerhouse Alfred Aroga, the Bulldogs just made enough on offense to will their way into a historic championship.
As it turned out, Sampaloc did not have a ready-made replacement for Parks Jr.
For that, it had to take total team effort.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.