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UP leaves for US for 2-week camp

By Jerome Lagunzad

University of the Philippines is leaving no stone unturned in its lofty bid to make it back to the Final Four in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament after 20 long years.

The Fighting Maroons are set to leave for the United States on Saturday as they will undergo a two-week, high-intensity training camp under renowned strength and conditioning coach Joe Abunassar at the IMPACT Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

No less than second-year coach Bo Perasol shared the development yesterday, saying he intends to keep the Fighting Maroons in better shape collectively – not just as teammates but also as one tightly-knitted family – ahead of the bigger battles ahead.

“Siyempre ang pinakamagandang mangyayari dyan is du’n sa strength and conditioning ng mga bata. Pero ‘yung team dynamics, mas magiging solid,” admitted the 45-year-old Perasol, who had achieved the same kind of experience when he was still calling the shots for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

“Naramdaman ko ‘yung ganung strength na nangyari sa Ateneo. Kaya naging malaking lesson sa akin ‘yun. It’s really more about the camp itself,” he continued.

Perasol added the Fighting Maroons, led by key returnees Diego Dario, Kyles Lao, Javi Gomez De Liaño, Jerson Prado and last year’s Mythical Team member Paul Desiderio, could also see action in a series of tuneup matches against several US collegiate squads and selection teams.

Mali-born 6-foot-9 center Ibrahim Ouattara, Cebuano guard Jun Manzo and Gomez de Liaño’s younger brother, FIBA World 3X3 veteran Juan, are among the new faces that Perasol expects to make an “immediate impact” for the Maroons who are aching to surpass a fighting fifth-place finish last year.

“Wala naman kaming ibang ambisyon kung hindi ang makapasok dyan,” said Perasol, a former Fighting Maroon himself back in the early 90s.

“Alam ko na hindi ‘yan magiging madali. Pero ‘yan talaga ang goal namin this coming season. Nasa fifth place na kami last year, kaunting panalo na lang makakapasok na kami sa Final Four. You set higher goals for yourself for you to make big improvement.”

The Fighting Maroons will kickoff their title drive against the rebuilding Growling Tigers of University of Santo Tomas on September 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.