Nowhere to Go but Up
The U.P. Men’s Basketball Team take on a new coach and a positive attitude
It was coming full circle for the U.P. Men’s Basketball Team as they tried clinching the 7th spot in Season 74 of the UAAP. After starting out with a 1-0 slate, the Fighting Maroons strived to substantiate their comeback by not finishing dead-last this season. Unfortunately, the team went crashing back to Earth as they lost to the U.E. Red Warriors (68-54) last Saturday, and ended up at the bottom of the pack for the third straight year.
But despite a curtailed turnaround, the Maroons are proud that they have finally put an end to their 18-game losing streak that started on August 2009. They managed to nail two games, one against U.E. (69-61), and another versus FEU (76-63). “This season is a lot better than the last one,” says shooting forward Moriah Gingerich. “100% effort.”
The players attribute their successful return to their new coaching staff. “We owe it to them,” says veteran Mike Gamboa. The roster led by Coach Frederick “Ricky” Dandan, a former Ateneo coach and current Powerade Tigers assistant, have instilled a more positive yet very disciplinarian attitude in the team. Gamboa describes their coaching style as very intense and focused. “Every practice—consistent since it started.”
In particular, the team gives credit to Coach Ricky for their positive mentality and better teamwork. Sophomore and shooting guard Jett Manuel says “he’s different mainly because he was a U.P. player before. He knows what it takes to be a champion.”
“He knows a lot more about basketball,” adds Gingerich.
“Whatever happens, good or bad, just keep on fighting,” Manuel says of their mindset. “No one bosses other people around. No superstar—everyone can contribute.”
The team is excited about next season as they continue on their rebuilding stage. They look forward to improving both individually and as a team. Gamboa stresses that “the team is worth more than just two games, and there is still potential.”
They are one in thinking that they have to work on playing more consistently, particularly in terms of maintaining leads and closing out games. Having lost a number of close games for the past years, they admit that these are lessons that should’ve been learned seasons ago, but they are positive that “next year, they won’t happen again.”
The team takes it as a learning process. “We are focused more on the process rather than the result. If the result of the process [would] bring us there [the Final Four], then well and good,” explained Coach Ricky during an outside interview.
As for a clear game plan, Gingerich quotes Coach Ricky: “Defense, that’s how our team would compete and win.”
Aside from team dynamics and playing strategies, the players are also focused on self-improvement. Their goals include getting physically bigger and stronger, blending better with the squad, and contributing more to the team.
As they await the return of veterans Mark Lopez, Alvin Padilla, and Mikee Reyes, and the arrival of some fresh blood, the Fighting Maroons are more than ecstatic to take on the next stage of their rebuilding process. Although neither the critics nor most fans expect much from them, they promise to deliver better results next season, for the team and more importantly for the university.
Now that the monkey is off their back, it’s time the Maroons strive to put the ring on their finger.
Photo by Chrissie Cruz