After an impressive preseason campaign, University of the East (UE) is now considered as one of the title contenders in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 76 men’s basketball tournament which starts June 29 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Warriors recently ruled the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, dethroning the National University Bulldogs.
The victory serves as a good springboard going into the UAAP wars but coach Boycie Zamar remains modest. “It’s not an assurance. We need to work hard to achieve our goals in the UAAP,” Zamar said.
Prolific point guard Roi Sumang, who was the Most Valuable Player in the Premier Cup, is one of the players to watch this season. Last year, he was No. 3 in scoring with an average of 18.4 per game on 40.4 (2-point), 35.4 (3-point) and 5.1 (free throw) shooting percentages.
The 5-foot-8 Sumang was second in assists with a 5.4 average and third in steals with 1.4.
Besides Sumang, UE will be powered by the 6-foot-7 Sierra Leone native Charles Mammie and veterans John Michael Noble, Chris Javier, Lord Casajeros, Ralf Olivarez, Adrian Santos, Jairold Flores and Jhon Rey Sumido.
The rookies are La Salle Greenhills’ Mario Emmanuel Bonleon, Hope Christian High School’s Leo Guion and San Sebastian College-Recoletos’ Gino Jumao-as.
In Season 75, the Red Warriors finished with a 3-11 mark to share sixth place with Adamson University. One of those victories was their 79-77 upset win over the defending champions Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.
As part of its build-up, UE went through a series of invitational games in Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia. They also ruled the 9th Asian University Championships held in Manila in October last year.
UE will open its campaign against Far Eastern University at 2 p.m. on opening day.
EMIL C. NOGUERA