Compared to last year, University of the East (UE) Red Warriors coach Derrick Pumaren said that his wards are sturdier and smarter as they begin their campaign in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (uaap) Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
Pumaren, who led De La Salle University to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 said the Red Warriors are ready to collide against the league’s top teams like De La Salle University and defending champion Far Eastern University. Pumaren is now on his third year of coaching the Red Warriors.
“We are ready this coming season,” Pumaren, the elder brother of coaches Franz and Dindo, told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Friday. “I’m confident of our chances this time to enter the Final Four because we’re more of a cohesive and competitive unit now.”
Last season, UE failed to reach the Final Four after finishing No.6 with De La Salle University that also carried a 6-8 win-loss record. “We worked so hard polishing our defense and I think we can compete better than last year. We’re aiming to be in the Final Four this year and that’s very doable. We just have to work harder and play smarter,” he added.
UE will be playing without 6’5 center Chris Javier, who already graduated. The Red Warriors will now be banking on Bonbon Batiller, Clark Derige, Paul Varilla, Emil Palma, Philip Manalang, Edgar Charcos and Fran Yu.
“We had an early preparation and we also prepared offensive plays. I expect the players to be more disciplined and aggressive this coming season,” said Pumaren, who has a 30-year experience coaching teams in professional and collegiate leagues.
As part of their preparation, the Red Warriors competed in a Guam tourney in July and finished second behind eventual champion Guam.
“NU (National University) also played there and it was a good experience for our players,” he said.
JOSEF T. RAMOS