After an impressive preseason campaign, the University of the East (UE) is now considered as one of the title contenders in the University Athletic Association (UAAP) of the Philippines Season 76 men’s basketball tournament beginning on June 29, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Warriors recently ruled the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup. They dethroned the National University Bulldogs via an 81-68 victory in the finals held at The Arena in San Juan.
The victory serves as a good springboard going into the UAAP wars but coach Boycie Zamar remains modest saying: “It’s not an assurance. We need to work hard to achieve our goals in the UAAP.”
Prolific point guard Roi Sumang, adjudged as the Most Valuable Player in the Premier Cup, is one of the players to watch this season. Last year, he was ranked No. 3 in scoring department 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, the Red Warriors will be powered by the 6-foot-7 Sierra Leone native Charles Mammie and veteran players John Michael Noble, Chris Javier, Lord Casajeros, Ralf Olivarez, Adrian Santos, Jairold Flores and Jhon Rey Sumido. 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 wrapped up their campaign with 3-11 mark and shared the sixth place with Adamson University (3-11). 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 participated in 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 begin its campaign by taking on Far Eastern University at 2 p.m. in the opening day.
Emil C. Noguera