Defending champions National University (NU) Bullpups will begin their title defense against the University of the East (UE) Junior Warriors in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 79 juniors’ basketball tournament on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.
“We can’t take UE for granted. Although UE is rebuilding, we have to prepare against them,” said NU head coach Jefferson Napa.
The blue-and-gold squad had a rigid training to prepare for the upcoming season.
“We had the usual approach from last year. We had rigid training to incorporate for this season because we have to defend the crown. We really prepared for this season,” Napa added.
NU missed the service of Justine Baltazar who currently plays for De La Salle University and Dave Camaso who’s serving his residency in Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
Napa admitted that Baltazar is the most vital card they lost and that Bullpups are the underdogs this season.
“Baltazar is really a big loss, while other teams have rebuilt and gained experience from last year.”
He sees the Adamson University (AdU) Baby Falcons, Ateneo de Manila High School (AHS) Blue Eaglets, De La Salle Santiago Zobel (DLSZ) Junior Archers, and Far Eastern University (FEU) Baby Tamaraws as the title contenders.
To fill the vacant posts left by Baltazar and Camaso, the NU mentor shared that his players will help each other as a team.
“Everyone can score. There will be team effort this time. We will help each other to supply what we lost from last year. We will play all out, all heart. We’ll give our best, especially the players to defend our crown.”
Holding over from last season are point guards Paul Manalang and Daniel Atienza, John Lloyd Clemente, Karl Peñano, and Rhayyan Amsali.
The Ateneo Blue Eaglets will face the University of Santo Tomas Tiger Cubs at 9 a.m., while the FEU Baby Tamaraws will battle the DLSZ Junior Archers at 11 a.m.
The University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) Junior Maroons will go against the Adamson Baby Falcons at 1 p.m., while the NU-UE clash will start at 3 p.m.