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UST out to translate early prep to success

By Jerome Lagunzad

There’s nowhere to go but up for University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.

Despite being the host school, UST fared miserably last year as it finished tied for seventh to eight places with University of the East in the eight-team field with similar woeful 3-11 records.

“Seeded last kami noong nakaraang taon kaya dapat umangat kami ngayon,” said UST coach Rodil “Boy” Sablan in a phone interview yesterday while overseeing the Growling Tigers’ regular training session at the España, Manila-based gymnasium.

“Maaga kami nag-prepare kami ngayon kaya I hope it will translate to positive results. Mataas rin naman ang morale ng mga bata ngayon. Tingin ko ito na ‘yung chance namin na makabalik (sa Final Four).”

It’s easier said than done, however, since the Growling Tigers will have to make do with a heavily retooled roster following the graduation of wingman Louie Vigil plus the exit of forward Embons Bonleon and guard Renzo Subido who both decided to skip the UAAP action this year and instead brought their acts to the PBA D-League.

However, Sablan, 54, remains optimistic that UST can make its presence felt with the entry of 6-foot-8 Cameroon center Steve Akomo, whom he considers as a blue-chip recruit from University of Visayas, as well as three transferees from UAAP rival schools – Jordan Sta. Ana from UE and former Adamson stalwarts Christian Garcia and Carlo Escalambre.
They are expected to join forces with key holdovers led by third-year guard Marvin Lee, big men Jeepy Faundo and Jon Macasaet, forwards Regie Boy Basibas, Enrique Caunan, Justin Arana and Zachary Huang.

While he admitted they have limited time to undergo any training camp, Sablan disclosed that the Growling Tigers should get enough exposure as they will see action in a four-day tournament in Baguio City next week and the annual Kadawayan Festival invitational meet in Davao City next month.