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Atoy puzzled why Oraeme left Mapua

By Jerome Lagunzad

Badly decimated with the exit of reigning two-time league MVP Allwell Oraeme and a slew of vital cogs, Mapua coach Atoy Co is keeping his expectations from the Cardinals at its very modest in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament.

The 6-foot-9 Oraeme has earlier decided to sit out due to pressing personal matters while top guard Shane Menina has opted to take his talents to the UAAP by way of National University, leaving Mapua with bigger holes to fill following the graduation of solid starters Joseph Eriobu and CJ Isit.

So it’s not quite surprising why the 65-year-old Co isn’t much excited to talk about his team’s chances of clinching a Final Four ticket for the third straight year.

“Ano sa tingin mo? Parang maglolokohan lang tayo n’yan,” he said, in between laughs, during a phone interview yesterday. “Tsaka na natin pag-usapan ‘yan kung sakaling makakarating kami du’n ngayong taon.”

While he’s optimistic that the likes of veteran guard Andoy Estrella and returnees Leo Gabo and JP Nieles can thrive on bigger roles, Co admitted the Cardinals should find it tough making up for the absence of their prized Nigerian center.

“Napakahirap punan ‘yung kay Allwell,” he stressed, clearly aware of how big Oraeme can be as a difference maker underscored by his monster numbers of 15.8 points, 19.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game last year.

Co added he’s still puzzled why Oraeme left the Cardinals out in the cold.

“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have any guilt because we treated him fairly. Lahat ng hiningi niya, binigay namin.

Kaya nangangapa pa rin ako hanggang ngayon kung ano ba talaga ang dahilan kung bakit umalis siya,” he said.

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