By JEROME LAGUNZAD
(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – UE vs NU
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs Adamson
More bite than bark.
That’s what new National University coach Jamike Jarin wants to see from the revitalized Bulldogs as they play darkhorse in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament that gets going this weekend at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After leading powerhouse San Beda back to the NCAA throne last year, Jarin, 47, is set to bring in his own championship pedigree to the NU camp after the then loaded Bulldogs missed the Final Four trip last season that cost one-time UAAP champion tactician Eric Altamirano his job.
“We’re gonna be very competitive coming into the season,” he assured, sounding confident that the Bulldogs can still hold their ground against the perennial heavyweights despite losing the likes of Cameroon ace Alfred Aroga, JV Gallego, Med Salim and Josh Sinclair in the off-season.
Skipper J-Jay Alejandro, Rev Diputado, Matt Salem and Matthew Aquino are back for another tour of duty for the Bulldogs, who will also parade 6-foot-9 Senegalese big man Issa Gaye, touted recruit Jonas Tibayan from Chiang Kai Shek and former Ateneo juniors star Enzo Joson.
“We got a very young team but we promise everyone that we will do our best,” said Jarin. “We’re gonna have fun for 40 minutes. We will try to compete and if you give us a chance to get a win, we will take it.”
Also out to make its presence felt are the Red Warriors of the University of the East, the Bulldogs’ opening day assignment this Saturday.
Without promising guard Bonbon Batiller who transferred to NCAA member Letran in the off-season, UE coach Derrick Pumaren is hoping to get a better showing from his usual all-Filipino crew led by Alvin Pasaol, Clark Derige, Philip Manalang and Mark Olayon.
“We hope we can better our showing this coming season and hopefully we will be able to erase the disappointments we had last year,” admitted Pumaren, who is eager to finally steer the Red Warriors to the Final Four stage on his fourth year at the helm.
“We have to play with enough confidence this time. So far, the chemistry of the players is good. We also have to make use of our quicker lineup and hopefully the hight disadvantage will be covered by that.”