UAAP Season 74 Outlook: UE Red Warriors

(image from the UE Red Warriors FaceBook page)

Will UE withstand the oncoming storms, or will they wilt and wither amid the unforgiving winds of change?

Filoil Results:
UE over JRU, 79-78
UE lost to AdU, 61-70
UE lost to EAC, 46-49
UE lost to FEU, 77-80
UE over CSB, 74-66
UE over CSJL, 83-78
UE lost to UP, 76-78
UE over MIT, 82-79
4 wins & 4 losses

Who's missing?
Paul Lee, Ken Acibar & Sam Razon
Technically, all three could still have played for UE this season. Paul Lee could've been in his 5th year of eligibility, but he chose to forego it. It's pretty obvious he'll apply for a slot in the PBA Draft. Curiously enough, both Acibar and Razon were in the Filoil roster of the Warriors. Acibar "left due to disciplinary reasons" after playing just three games while Razon played in 4 before "disappearing" himself (probably since he has not fully recovered from the ACL injury he sustained last year). So that's 2 of their top 3 scorers (the 3rd one was James Martinez, who graduated already) absent and their starting center as well. Things don't get much worse than that.

Can Paul Zamar prove to be a good leader?
(image by Jan Dizon/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Who will be Season 74's Warchiefs?
Paul Zamar, Lord Casajeros, Biboy Enguio & Lucas Tagarda
And who will inherit the mantle of leadership? The burden of scoring and playmaking? Lee was the main offensive cog in UE's play last year. He was leading scorer (14.2ppg) and playmaker (4.4apg). Acibar averaged 11.6ppg, 9rpg and 1.4bpg. How can neophyte coach Jerry Codiñera make up for such gaping holes? 

He can't. And it will show in Season 74. 

Veterans Paul Zamar, Lord Casajeros, Biboy Enguio and Lucas Tagarda are all serviceable players at this level, but none of them can dominate the way Lee and Acibar occasionally did for UE. That foursome of vets averaged just 23.9ppg and 6.4apg for the Reds in the preseason. That's 4 people folks. They won't be short on effort this year, but they will be short on pretty much everything else.

JM Noble will now get to show what made him so great
in the NCAA Juniors 4 years ago.
(image by Jan Dizon/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Who MUST make an impact?
JM Noble, Adrian Santos, Chris Javier & a platoon of new guards
And because UE doesn't have a lick of hope relying on its experienced players, the Recto-based squad will have to put added pressure on its young guns. Sophomore Adrian Santos, freshman Chris Javier and a host of youthful guards are expected to try their hands at helping UE scrape wins on a game-to-game basis. Santos, together with underutilized senior forward JM Noble, did relatively well in the preseason, combining for 13.8ppg and 10.4rpg. That should be an exciting PF combo right there.

Former Bedan Chris Javier will probably get thrust into the starting center position unless Codiñera decides to use the undersized but hardworking Erwin Duran. Javier wasn't awesome during the 2011 Filoil tourney, averaging just 5.7ppg and 5rpg, but his 6'5" frame should prove to be more effective in banging against the Mbes and Van Opstals of the league. 

Some names UE's fans should keep tabs on are former Letran Squire Roi Sumang, former Red Cub Von Chavez, and Cebuano recruit BJ Zosa. None of those players is a 6-footer, but they are all known for their speed and explosiveness. Sumang started 3 Filoil games while Zosa started 4, both combining for 11.8ppg, 4.5rpg and 3.8apg. Those certainly aren't stellar stats, but most rookies can do much worse and, frankly, beggars cannot be choosers at this stage. None of UE's players will get any end-of-the-season citations (unlike last year when both Lee and Acibar made the Mythical 5), but they should do enough to avoid embarrassing blowouts.

What will help them?
Athleticism, Scrappiness, & Anonymity
Even without Lee and Acibar, the Warriors will not be short on athletes. Adrian Santos can sky with the best of 'em, while JM Noble and Chris Javier have the potential to produce some highlights as well. Their guards should be able to speed up-and-down the court quite well and even if they fall short in terms of experience, the Warriors should remain quite competitive.

Jerry Codiñera has no better choice than to teach his boys to be scrappy. Zamar and Tagarda aren't particularly known for their defense, but they should procure a steal or loose ball here and there. Noble, Javier, Duran and Santos should scramble for the tips and rebounds under the hole. UE surprisingly held their opponents to only 36.9% shooting from the field in the Filoil league, good for 3rd best behind Ateneo and EAC. That could be because they run out on shooters and rotate well on D. Perhaps they are learning something from the Defensive Minister after all. 

Nobody really knows who these Warriors are, and that could be one of their biggest advantages. Nobody knows them, so nobody really expects the high heavens from them. They've got nothing to lose, and playing with nothing to lose can actually be good. Their opponents might be lulled into thinking they're going up against a bunch of pansies, and the Red Warriors can exploit such events to the hilt. This is the same UE roster that beat respectable teams like Mapua and Letran over the summer, and this is the same squad that narrowly lost to FEU and UP in the same stretch. Those results won't include UE in any championship conversation, but they should prove that UE is very capable of making teams pay for taking them lightly.

What will make it difficult?
Inexperience, New System, & Scoring Scarcity
The other side of anonymity is inexperience, and this is apparent both in the players and the coach. It also manifested itself in the Red Warriors' preseason play. Check out these telling stats: UE allowed its opponents to steal the ball 6.5 times per game (last place), on average, they were outrebounded by 3 boards in each outing, and they committed nearly 22 turnovers per match. UE's forced reliance on a young core will inevitably lead to growing pains, and coach Jerry can only hope that things will get better down the road.

UE's previous coach, the rumor-magnet and unorthodox Lawrence Chongson used what many people believed to be a bahala na approach to scoring buckets. In basketball-speak, the accepted term is free-wheeling or free-styling. With such potent talents as Elmer Espiritu, Rudy Lingganay, Lee and Acibar, that system proved surprisingly effective, but it remains to be seen what coach Jerry will adopt with his present crew of cagers. One persistent rumor suggests Lee actually left the program a year early because the new system wouldn't fit his play-style well. Could this mean coach Jerry will employ a more deliberate/purist approach predicated on sets and patterns? If this is the case, then Warrior fans should prepare themselves for a roller-coaster ride. To illustrate, consider this: UE scored in the 80s to beat Letran and Mapua, but only managed 46 points in a loss to the EAC Generals. Up and down they will go.

Paul Zamar led UE with 10.8ppg over the summer, but if that's the kind of production their leading scorer will get, then UE's offense will be barren indeed. The next leading scorers who are still in the roster? JM Noble and Adrian Santos at 6.9ppg each. It's not even a question of who will take the shot in the clutch, but who can they count on to make the shots on a consistent basis. Unless coach Jerry is hiding an ace up his sleeve, the Warriors' axes will probably employ blunt edges in Season 74.

Biboy Enguio and the rest of the Warriors are headed
for a swirling season of disappointment.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Will they make the FInal Four?
Almost no chance
If Zamar averages nearly 20ppg, Noble and Santos combine to average a high double-double each game, and one of their young guards proves to be an unheralded wunderkind, the Warriors just might pull the rug from under the league's stalwarts. But in all probability, UE has little to zero chance of making it past a 14th game. This is no disrespect for UE's game -- it's just that the program suffered an inordinate exodus of talent and it's obvious they are on rebuild mode. Season 74 will be all about paying dues for UE.

I'm seeding them as
#8 -- Yep, that means last place. They didn't beat any UAAP team in the Filoil wars, and they should only be able to snare not more than a couple of upsets in Season 74. 3 wins would be momentous.

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