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Bulldogs look formidable

By Jerome Lagunzad

Instead of waiting for another year, National University coach Jamike Jarin is set to throw freshly-recruited Fil-Am Troy Rike into the fire for the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament this September.

After all, Jarin believes the Bulldogs, as loaded and talented as they have become with the addition of other blue-chip high school prospects, are still lacking the experience and stability to contend with traditional powerhouse teams, led by defending champion Ateneo and La Salle.

That is something that the 6-foot-7 Rike, just 22 years old, could provide after suiting up for four years with Wake Forest, a Division 1 school in the US NCAA, in what could be the first one-and-done stint on the local collegiate ranks in recent memory.

Jarin himself finally got a close look at the promising Gilas “#23for23” pool member who finally showed up in the Bulldogs practice last Thursday, three days after acting as one of the peacemakers in the infamous brawl between Gilas Pilipinas and Australia during the FIBA Asian World Cup qualifiers inside the Philippine Arena.

“I liked what I saw, the other coaches liked what they see because he brings in that selfless basketball that we preach: making the right decisions and not forcing things,” he said.

“Perhaps because of his experience playing with the best in Wake Forest and training with the best local players in Gilas (Pilipinas national team).”

Since he already holds a collegiate degree at Wake Forest and enrolled at NU through its masters program, Rike won’t need to undergo a one-year residency and can immediately play in the UAAP as soon as possible based on the existing league rules.

That should give Jarin another potent weapon aside from the entry of former Bullpups star John Lloyd Clemente, Chiang Kai Shek gunner John Galinato and ex-Ateneo Blue Eaglet ace forward Dave Ildefonso.

Ildefonso’s elder brother, former Ateneo backup Shaun, has already completed his residency as a transferee while ex-Chiang Kai Shek standout JV Gallego and Josh Sinclair, another Gilas cadet, are back in the fold, giving the Bulldogs additional firepower and depth right on their hosting year.

Still, Jarin is keeping his expectations at modest. “We all know that we have the talent right now. We got bigger, we got taller. But we are very young and we still need to have that experience. Hopefully, as Troy comes in, he can give us that experience even though the UAAP season is just two months away,” he said.