After a courageous stand that saw their once divided supporters back in the gallery to cheer them on, the University of the Philippines (UP) Maroons have no other way to go but up.
Almost cancelled out after a dismal 1-6 record in the first round, the Maroons had produced one big game after another to revive their floundering bid and make a serious threat at claiming a Final Four berth.
They won four of seven games, including a stunning win over the Ateneo Eagles to start off their second round, but still fell a win short of forging a playoff for the last semis berth with the Adamson Falcons.
Still, the optimism that one day they will make it back to the top continued to grow.
“We need to build into that momentum which we created when we were able to get some strings of wins in the 2nd round of the last season,” said UP coach Bo Perasol. “If we could be the team that doesn’t back down against anybody, I think we would be in a good place all the time.”
Things, according to Perasol, are now falling into place.
Perasol is convinced that foreign student Ibrahim Ouattara and Cebuano recruit Jun Manzo can help sustain their winning drive.
Outtara is expected to play big minutes since he’s towering 6-foot-9 frame could help the team intimidate their rivals and Manzo is likely to bedevil the opposition with his devastating mix of jumpers and crossovers .
“I’m very happy with the response of the community basing on the crowd which supported us in the last few games,” said Perasol.
With ample support, Perasol said they intend to competen in various tournaments to gain more confidence in time for the UAAP season in September.
“My players need more experience,” added Perasol. “We can conduct a number of mini training camps all throughout the summer to enhance our skills and conditioning as well.”
The Maroons will be without Jett Manuel, Dave Moralde and Henri Asilum, but the community is confident that guard Paul Desiderio and Javi Gomez de Liano, the versatile forward out of UP Integrated School, will continue to prosper under Perasol’s watch.
The team will be more formidable with the acquisition of Nigerian center Bright Akhuetie from University of Perpetual Help.
Akhuetie will undergo a one-year residency before he becomes eligible to play in the 2018 UAAP season.
Indeed, UP’s future looks bright.