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Here’s Your Guide to the UAAP Season 82 Basketball Tournament

The ins, outs, and who’s the favorite to win it all.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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The day before the big UAAP Season 82 opening will make it 272 days since the Eagles beat the Maroons and broke the hearts of the State U’s millions of fans en route to Ateneo’s 10th championship and second of back-to-back wins.

I don’t know if you were counting the days—a U.P. alumnus probably would—but that’s close to 39 weeks of waiting for die-hard fans, and almost nine months for players doing two-a-days in preparation for the September 4 tip-off. 

Now that we’re just days away, get yourself in super fan mode by getting to know your team and back up that trash-talk with Esquire’s primer for this UAAP hoops season.

First thing you need to know is there’s a new sheriff in town: that’s incoming UAAP commissioner Jensen Ilagan.

A FIBA-certified table official who has honed his chops as technical director of the ASEAN Basketball League, he is set to introduce a ‘video review initiative’ whereby officials (referees) will be required to immediately assess and analyze their games to “check for consistency” on calls, especially on player-to-player contact situations.

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Game evaluation will also be conducted by the technical committee and the referee’s peers in order to constantly improve the quality of officiating throughout the season.

Each of the UAAP’s 73 referees went through a two-month intensive seminar, which included physical fitness with conditioning coaches and officiating mechanics under FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur or International Basketball Federation) instructors.

According to Ilagan, all these steps are being taken so that players can concentrate on bringing their A-game, and so that fans can focus on simply enjoying the game.

Speaking of the game, here’s a breakdown of the 8 UAAP men’s basketball teams competing in Season 82:

UE Red Warriors

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The Warriors finished 1-13 last season, but with second-year head coach Joe Silva’s recruits becoming eligible to play this year (after serving their one-year residency), I’m sure “conquer” is the only word on UE’s mind right now.

Last season’s top scorer Alvin Pasaol decided to skip his final playing year while both Paul Varilla and Rey Mark Acuno have used up theirs, but on the way in is 22-year old, 6’9” Senegalese Adama ‘Alex’ Diakhite from Diliman College who averaged 21 points per game (PPG), 12.5 rebounds per game (RPG), 4.5 blocks and 1.0 steal in the UCBL (Universities and Colleges Basketball League). He will be UE’s first import since 2014.

Also new to the team are two 19-year olds: guard Harvey Pagsanjan, who won the FCAAF (Filipino-Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation) MVP after leading Hope Christian High School to the championship last year, and 5’11” Mapua Red Robin playmaker Clint Escamis; Fil-Kiwi swingman Richie Rodger who’s already played two years of college ball in New Zealand, stands 6’4”, has passing skills and can shoot from a distance; 6-foot defensive specialist Neil Tolentino; transferee (from Ateneo) forward John Apacible; and two vets who’ll only be playing one year (they’re taking up post-graduate studies), CESAFI (Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc.) MVP Rey Suerte and former JRU (Jose Rizal University) double-digit scorer Jed Mendoza.

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NU Bulldogs

The Bulldogs held a training camp in NU Calamba for two weeks and were doing rigid a.m. and p.m. practices with the goal of getting a better finish than 7th place (4-10) last season.

Former Bullpups Migs Oczon and Robert Minerva are expected to make an impact this season. Minerva is a 6’5” forward from Cebu who can guard multiple positions, while the 5’11” Oczon can shoot from 3 and is a great on-ball defender.

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In the lineup is Manny Mangayao, a 6’4” recruit who averaged 21 PPG and 8 RPG in 23 outings for Orcutt Academy in California.

The return of playmaker Chino Mosqueda after suffering an ACL injury last year, the promotion to Team A of sharpshooting guard Chami Diputado, and 6’7” big man Tzaddy Rangel, both of whom honed their skills with the farm team last season, is going to make a big impact on the team’s performance.

But the biggest reason to be optimistic, says Coach Jamike Jarin, is the maturity of super sophomores Dave Clemente and Dave Ildefonso after getting major on-court exposure last season, and the vast improvement of Issa Gaye after spending much of the offseason working with assistant coaches Danny Ildefonso and John Ferriols.

UST Growling Tigers

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The big news out of USTe is that CJ Cansino is now playing and has been practicing for a little more than a month after tearing his ACL last season.

The 6’2” Cansino averaged a double-double (12.8 PPG and 10.3 RPG) prior to the injury and was the first rookie since 2003 to tally a triple-double. He was appointed co-captain along with Zach Huang.

UST’s recruits are led by Rhenz Abando. The name may not get a roar out of you yet but the 6’2” wingman made a huge impression in offseason tournaments. In particular, scoring 21 points versus the Eagles and getting the attention of Thirdy Ravena.

After redshirting last season, former Green Archer Brent Paraiso is suiting up for the Tigers this year. He averaged 6.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.0 assists per game (APG) for UST in the PBA D-League.

Also set to crack the lineup this year is Sherwin Concepcion, a 6’3” wingman out of Malayan High School of Science and 6’6” big Soulémane Chabi Yo from the Republic of Benin who put up double-doubles for UST in the UCBL Summer Tournament.

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Coach Aldin Ayo also managed to sway a few blue-chip recruits his way and that includes 6’1” Deo Cuajao (who scored a game-high 41 points in the 2019 NBTC League National Finals) from Holy Child College Davao, and 5’8” Mark Nonoy who has earned the moniker “Iloilo’s Russel Westbrook.”

UST has a vast collection of transferees and rookies to fortify its lineup and is predicted to get a record better than last season’s 5-9.

De La Salle Green Archers

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After missing the Final Four last year—tied with FEU at 8-6 and lost to them in the one-game playoff—the Green Archers are looking stocked, locked and ready to rock.

Two of its three Fil-Ams, all of whom are on one-and-done deals as they’re only taking masters courses in DLSU, are above six-six. There’s 6’7” Jamie Orme from O’Dea High School, Seattle, and 6’9” James Laput from West Oaks Academy, Florida. The third is six-foot guard Keyshawn Evans from Sagemont School, Florida.

Also expected to see action are Fil-Ams Kurt Lojera and Tyrus Hill, both of whom are Adamson transferees, and Jordan Bartlett, who was last seen as a Bulldog in the UAAP.

Currently working out with the team are three rookies, 5’9” Joel Cagulangan and six-foot Joshua David from LSGH, and the 6’2” standout from Ateneo de Davao Francis Escandor.

Head coach is Gian Nazario but don’t be surprised when you see team consultant Jermaine Byrd call out some plays during the game. There’s synergy between the two and their coaching style has elicited a positive reaction from the players.

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What are they excited about for the upcoming season? According to assistant coach MC Abolucion, they can’t wait to play their team-oriented running game that showcases a free-flowing offense, favoring no specific player.

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Singson, a 6’5” bigman from Rockridge High School who played in the FYBA (Filipino-American Youth Basketball Association) with Jordan Bartlett (transferee from National University), is still in the US as of press time and has yet to crack the Green Archers lineup.

FEU Tamaraws

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Their lineup is chockfull of former Baby Tamaraws and it shouldn’t be a bad thing. Loyalty and familiarity will help a lot with chemistry but will that translate to a record better than last year’s 8-6?

From FEU Diliman (high school), the rookie class is led by six-foot Xyrus Torres, potential double-double man Daniel Celso, guard Royce Alforque, and 6’5” JR Dularte.

Arvin Tolentino is gone, as well as Prince Orizu, and that means the offense will become more guard-centric with the likes of Hubert Cani, Wendell Comboy and LJ Gonzales in the backcourt.

Despite being a predominantly young team, Athletic Director Mark Molina is excited about the fact that most of these kids are talented homegrown individuals who already live and breathe the green and gold of FEU.

The Tamaraws are coming off a championship in Taiwan’s DLive Summer League and they’re hoping all that momentum carries over to Season 82.

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FEU is currently working out two imports, 6’10” Patrick Tchuente from Cameroon and 6’7” Emmanuel Ojuola from Nigeria, and will make a decision soon as to who will play for them this upcoming season.

UP Fighting Maroons

Atin ‘to?

That was really meant to be a question.

No more Desiderio and with no rookies, the Maroons come loaded with terrific transferees looking to push them beyond the second place finish last year.

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Leading the pack is 6’6” Kobe Paras, a one-time 3-star (collegiate) prospect of ESPN.com and was ranked 24th best player in California. He played Division 1 basketball for the Creighton Bluejays and was also a member of the Philippine National Team that won the gold (averaged 11.4 PPG) in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.

Ricci Rivero is a former Green Archer who won the Most Improved Player award and got voted into the UAAP Mythical Five the season before he redshirted.

Also from DLSU is 6’6” Jboy Gob who has missed the last two seasons, tearing his ACL in the first before reinjuring it last year. He averaged 14.7 PPG and 15.1 RPG in his final year in high school.

With Bright Akhuetie, the Gomez de Liaño brothers, Jun Manzo, and a veteran-heavy lineup, the Maroons are deep, talented and are heavy favorites to make a Finals return.

Adamson Falcons

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As good a season it was for the Falcons, who made their third straight Final Four appearance, failing to make it to the Finals obviously hurts.

Having the twice to beat advantage and then losing to third-seeded U.P. made it much worse.

Adamson can somehow mask that pain with the fact that they have one of the biggest blue-chip hauls of the season.

6’5” double-double machine Aaron Fermin (Arellano High School), 6’1” University of the Visayas standout Joshua Yerro, and former Baby Falcons and CDO native Joem Sabandal are already assured of a slot in the lineup.

However, import Papi Sarr from Cameroon is battling for his old position against 6’11” Congolese Dimercia Lenda Douanga while the offensively gifted 6’3” Doria brothers (Adam and Andrey), 6’5” center Lorenz Capulong are still under consideration for a roster spot.

The slow recovery of 6’2” small forward Adrian ‘AP’ Manlapaz’s ankle sprain sustained in early August is also giving the coaching staff pause regarding his selection.

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Assistant coach Ren-Ren Ritualo says their rookie-laden team is exciting. They’re all hungry for wins and the hope is that it translates to no less than a fourth straight Final Four stint.

Ateneo Blue Eagles

After dropping only two games in 14 last year, the Blue Eagles are shooting for their third straight championship in Season 82 and their 11th overall.

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Their core is still intact and will be spearheaded by Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena and quarterbacked by team captain Mike Nieto.

Several roster positions have been freed up after the departure of graduating players Anton Asistio and Aaron Black, plus Raffy Verano and Jolo Mendoza will be forced to sit out this season due to academic deficiencies.

Rookie Geo Chiu (6’8” former Blue Eaglet) is a shoe-in to fill up one of these spots but Coach Tab Baldwin is still currently working out Team B players Jason Credo (6’4” former Blue Eaglet wingman), Patrick James Maagdenberg (6’5” transferee out of Liston College, New Zealand), and Fil-Am Eli Ramos (6’3” guard from Walnut High School, California)

Former Junior Archers (LSGH) Inand Fornilos decided to sit out his first year to focus on his studies and get his body ready for UAAP competition.

Training camp was setup in Greece, again, but they’ve also added tune-up games in Singapore and Australia (Perth and Melbourne) before coming back.

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As exciting as a potential three-peat is for the Blue Eagles and their fans, team manager Epok Quimpo is more enthused about how the team’s success is slowly transforming plain grassroots pick-up games to a more organized form of basketball.

He says it will make us (as a country) more prepared for international competition.

That’s the team’s influence now, can you imagine what it’ll be like if they hoist a third straight trophy?

It’s game time!

The schedule of the men’s basketball games has been tweaked to accommodate the Philippines’ participation and coverage of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games that will be held from November 30 to December 11.

While the weekend games remain doubleheaders that begin at either 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. depending on matchups and ticket allocation, Wednesday games will be tripleheaders that start at 10:30 a.m., followed by a 12:30 p.m. game and then the third match at 4 p.m..

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Araneta Coliseum will be the venue from September 4 to 11 before shifting to Mall of Asia Arena (MOA) from September 14 to 18. The weekend games of September 21 and 22 will be hosted by Ynares in Antipolo, and then back to MOA September 25 and 28. The final day of the first round of eliminations will be done at the Araneta Coliseum.

If you can’t watch it live, there’s always the free TV coverage on S+A or you can catch it on-demand at sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/uaap and on iWant.

Hardcore fans can even view the post-game press conferences online and on Liga and Liga HD, but you only get the last two channels if you’re on Skycable.

No more excuses fans! Mark your calendars and get your game faces on because we’re going “all for more” this Season 82 of the UAAP!

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