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UAAP: Warriors face rough sailing

By Jerome Lagunzad

After failing to meet lofty expectations last year, University of the East is bracing for another tough grind in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tourney with the departure of several top guns led by star guard Bonbon Batiller.

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But veteran coach Derrick Pumaren is unfazed, confident that the current batch of the Red Warriors, now bannered by sophomore Alvin Pasaol and a handful of underrated cagers, are determined to spring a big surprise.

“Almost half of the team is new. But so far, we’re right on the schedule. We’re doing well in our practices and the things that we are supposed to do, nakukuha ng mga bata,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Disappointed with their woeful last-place finish last season despite boasting of a talented crew that included Batiller, Renz Palma, Paul Varilla, RR De Leon, and Edgar Charcos, Pumaren is not one to cry over spilled milk.

The veteran coach is shifting his focus on the task at hand instead.

“They players we have right now have a different attitude. They’re now starting to show that winning attitude,” he stressed, adding the wiry 6-foot-3 Pasaol and fellow holdovers Philip Manalang, Mark Olayon and Clark Derige are raring to redeem themselves.

Pumaren also expressed high hopes on a pair of recruits – combo guard Chris Conner from Guam and shooting guard Mark Maloles from Manuel L. Quezon University – whom he feels can make an immediate impact.

Now the longest tenured coach in the UAAP as he enters his fourth year at the helm, Pumaren is not too eager to prove his true worth – head-to-head-wise – against touted newcomers Jamike Jarin of National University and Far Eastern University’s Olsen Racela.

“All I’m worried about is my team making it to the next round,” he stressed. “I think we’re ready last year but we simply didn’t make it (to the Final Four). Hopefully these guys will come through this tim