UAAP Season 74 Outlook: UST Growling Tigers

(image from the UST Growling Tigers FaceBook page)

Will UST add an improbable UAAP Basketball title to its Quadricentennial celebrations, or will Season 74 serve up a round of Quadricentennial frustrations?

Filoil Results:
UST over DLSU, 79-70
UST lost to NU, 52-60
UST over SSC, 104-102
UST lost to ADMU, 46-59
UST over LPU, 65-55
UST lost to AU, 63-64
UST lost to SBC, 68-97
3 wins & 4 losses

Who's missing?
Tata Bautista, Eduardo Daquioag & Aljon Mariano
Bautista is out due to academic issues while Daquioag and Mariano are nursing significant injuries. Losing these three is undoubtedly a big blow for UST -- Bautista hit a team leading 2.9 triples per game last season while Daquioag and Mariano were sparks off the bench. It seems UST will be akin to a car with a running flat and no reserve tire. This will put more pressure on the rookies/newcomers to contribute if the Tigers want a good showing in their 400th year.

Who are the big cats?
Jeric Fortuna, Kevin Ferrer & Jeric Teng
With their 2nd leading scorer (Bautista) from Season 73 not playing, the two Jerics will have to up their game a notch, and star rookie Kevin Ferrer will have to pick up the slack as well. The terrific trio led the Tigers in their maiden venture into the Filoil Arena this past summer, combining for roughly 36 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 triples per game. Needless to say, UST's play will be hinged on these three. 

Former Tiger Cub Kevin Ferrer will have big shoes to fill in Season 74.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Who MUST make an impact?
Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul & Louie Vigil
Ferrer is a golden rookie find from the Tiger Cubs program, Abdul is a Cameroonian center recruit, and Vigil is a former NCAA Juniors MVP from JRU who transferred a few weeks ago after being on DLSU's preseason roster. All three are offensively potent, and Ferrer and Abdul should lead the team in rebounds (sorry Chris Camus, it seems your spot's been taken). Vigil will not start, but should prove to be the most dangerous man off the pine as Daquioag and Mariano are in sick bay. Despite all the talk about Ateneo's Kiefer Ravena running away with the ROY plum, don't count either Ferrer or Vigil out. Both have the skills to rival Ravena, and if the Tigers' veteran crew sputters throughout Season 74, then coach Pido Jarencio might just take a gamble on these two freshies taking charge. 

UPDATE (JULY 6, 2011): Louie Vigil will NOT be eligible for the ROY award since he already spent one year in DLSU's Team B in Season 73.

What will help them?
Three-Pointers, Mobile Bigs, Quadricentennial Motivation
Coach Pido Jarencio seems to have always patterned the Tigers' play on how he played back in the day. He puts a premium on outside shooting -- some would say to a fault. Jojo Duncil, Francis Allera, Anthony Espiritu, Jemal Vizcarra, Bautista, Fortuna, and Teng all prove that he has a penchant for snipers. UST would do well to exploit this, and their preseason play has shown they are willing to do so. They led the Filoil tourney in total triples converted with 55, which means they averaged 7.9 makes per game from downtown. UST will live by the three, and die by it.

Karim Abdul is no Jabbar, but he adds a rock-solid presence for UST.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
Big men Chris Camus and Melo Afuang have occasionally proven to be headaches for opposing squads because of their mobility and unorthodox style. Camus is like a freight train running full speed and jumping all over the place like a jackrabbit, while Afuang possesses an unusual collection of in-the-paint moves, coupled with a decent mid-range J. The addition of Abdul will help make UST's frontline more solid and should add even more athleticism. It might be quite a sight to see Camus slide to the swingman position with Afuang at the 4 and Abdul manning the slot. That would be a combo any team would hardly look forward to encountering. 

UST is 400 years old and coach Pido would love to give his alma mater something great to cheer about. Not that they don't have anything to look forward to (they'll probably win the overall UAAP title anyway), but a fairy-tale win on the hardwood similar to their 2006 minor miracle would be lovely icing on the university's quadricentennial cake. Coach Pido isn't exactly your prototype bench tactician in the mold of let's say a Norman Black or Franz Pumaren, but he's one hell of a motivator and he can bring out the magic in his players. I guess the question is is there enough magic in his players in the first place to even make a title run more than just a remote possibility?

What will make it difficult?
Field Goal Futility, Talent Underdevelopment, Porous Defense
Despite leading the 2011 Filoil wars in triples made per outing, the Tigers shot a miserable 27.9% from rainbow country. It takes them a mean of 28 attempts to reach their 7.9 threes/game average. That's about 20 threes missed a game -- around the same number of potential higher percentage shots down the drain. Having said that, settling for two-pointers wouldn't have made much of a difference anyway. UST was dead last in FG% among all 17 Filoil squads. It seems apparent that in every game, the Black & Gold can wax hot and volume-shoot themselves to victory, or shoot blanks and volume-shoot themselves in the foot towards a loss.

Jeric Fortuna is the Tiger who's made the biggest transformation
from his Juniors persona.
(image by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports)
To the best of my knowledge, here is a short-list of España's rookie classes from 2006 onwards -- that is, starting from the year coach Pido took over the program (I'll only count the rookies and not the ones who came up from Team B or who transferred from other College programs):
2006: Mel Gile
2007:  Hector Badua & Rum Perry Scott 
2008: Tata Bautista, Jeric Fortuna, Melo Afuang & Chris Camus
2009: Jeric Teng, Ed Aytona, Marco Cam, Andrew Felix, Aljon Mariano, Hady Rushdy, & Aljohn Ungria
2010: Kenneth Mamaril, Ed Daquioag, Kim Lo, Edcor Marata, & Paolo Pe
Of these names, perhaps only Fortuna has really blossomed/developed into a player more versatile than when he came in. Teng and Bautista have barely outgrown their collective shooter's mentality. Afuang and Camus have yet to break into the top class of UAAP big men. Then who else? Not much. If there's one clear indicator of the decline of the UST basketball program, it's the underdevelopment of the talent that comes in. I'm willing to wager nobody on the UST roster will surprise us with something new (like Teng having a post-up game or Camus shooting better than 30% from downtown). It'll be the same-old UST, with the same-old results.

In UST's Season 73 wins, they scored 73.5ppg while allowing only 68ppg for their opponents. In their losses, HOWEVER, UST scored only 64.5ppg while allowing their foes 72ppg. In the 2011 Filoil games, they shot a paltry 32% from the field while letting their opponents make 39% of their attempts. As dangerous as UST's sniping is, their defense leaves much to be desired. Potent scorers like Lester Alvarez, Nico Salva, Luigi Dela Paz, and RR Garcia will definitely look forward to scoring against the Tigers. Coach Pido can only pray that the presence of Abdul can counteract this.

Will they make the FInal Four?
Outside chance
UST will have as good a chance of breaking into the Final Four as UP. It'd take a handful of upsets for the Tigers to even dream of making the grade. BUT, if Abdul proves to be a consistent double-double machine like NU's Emmanuel Mbe, and Ferrer, Teng and Fortuna can form a high-scoring trio then the 2011 Tigers might just be reminiscent of the 2006 minor miracle edition.

I'm seeding them as
#6 -- Definitely ahead of UP and UE, but still significantly behind the rest of the pack. Looks like UST's 400th year will usher in more jeer than cheer.

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4 Comment

is vigil still eligible for ROY honors? he was with DLSU Team B last season...


Apparently not anymore! Will make the necessary update :) Thanks!


your forgot Robin Tan :)


Oh Robin Tan should be the first PG off the bench, relieving Fortuna. He was a former student of mine from Xavier School! I don't think he'll be eligible for ROY though, since he finished HS in 2008, if I remember correctly.