After a huge improvement last season, the Green Archers has continued to rebuild the once struggling team with new players, supporters and trainers in an effort to make a successful bid in the next UAAP season.
In the past two months La Salle has recruited blue-chip rookies Kib Montalbo, Benoit Mbala and Robert Bolick. The University’s newest addition to the team, however, is not a rookie.
PBA Hall of Famer and current Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Assistant Coach Allan Caidic recently joined the team as its new shooting coach. Known as ‘The Triggerman,’ Caidic is set to aid the Green Archers in perimeter shooting.
Archers Head Coach Gee Abanilla explained,“Right now, we are in a building up stage. We divided our program into certain phases, and right now we are building up; we want our boys to be stronger, bigger.”
Looking for lost glory
Since 2007, the Green Archers has not been able to secure a UAAP championship. After a season of improvement, the team has shown no signs of complacency in its quest for a UAAP basketball crown.
This year, the Archers managed to lift La Salle back to the standings with a 9-5 record. Head Coach Gee Abanilla together with five key additions last year, Mark Tallo, Thomas Torres, Axel Torres, Gab Reyes and Jeron Teng, led the team’s almost successful bid.
Rebuilding with championship pieces
Two months ago, the Archers secured Bacolod high school star Kib Montalbo. A few weeks after, news came out that Cameroonian Ben Mbala, who once scored 41 points in the Philippine Collegiate Champions Leagues for the South Western University Cobras, will also transfer to La Salle. Another week after, LSGH main man Robert Bollick also committed to play for the Green-and-White.
Despite having three key recruits, Coach Abanilla has opened the lineup for any player who wants to play for the Green Archers.
Mbala, though, will still need to serve a year of residency at DLSU in compliance with UAAP rules. Aside from the three recruits, Filipino-American Jason Perkins is also set to wear the Green-and-White jersey next season after undergoing residency with the Archers’ developmental team last year.
Abanilla, however, clarified, “At this point, nothing is final. Our rule is everybody is a tryout, but as long as you are confident with your skills, you don’t need to worry.”
With many players on their cradle at the moment, Abanilla and his coaching staff have decided to divide their preseason preparation into different phases.
Coach Abanilla mentioned,“We are not concerned about their speed and agility at this point. We will come to that area at another phase. So, by next we’ll be undergoing a different phase, so more of reps, incidentally, we got also a new strength and conditioning coach, Marlon Celis.”
Celis has worked with Abanilla in the PBA; he also has experience in international stints.
After finding pieces for the lineup, the supporting cast has also beefed up the upcoming UAAP season. After the addition of Celis as the new conditioning coach, Allan Caidic joined as the new shooting coach.
The Triggerman’s duty
Caidic, throughout his career, earned several distinctions. The former UE Red Warrior received the PBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1987. Three years after, Caidic collected his only Most Valuable Player award in the PBA. In addition, he is a six-time Mythical Team member. He won his first five seasons in the pros. In the PBA’s Silver Anniversary back in 2000, Caidic was also named as one of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players of All-Time.
Jeron Teng, UAAP Season 75’s Rookie of the Year, is one of the four players Caidic originally observed.
Teng explained, “We’re really blessed to get Coach Allan [Caidic] to help our team in terms of shooting because it is one of the major problems of the team, most particularly our free throw shooting, so that’s what we’re doing right now–to improve on our weakness last year.”
In the succeeding weeks, the Green Archers will undergo Caidic’s shooting drills.
The team’s three-point talisman Almond Vosotros, a renowned venomous long-range sniper added, “We are inspired by him, and we are looking forward to listen to his teachings.”
Less than a week with the Green Archers, Caidic has already introduced some changes to the team.
The 49 year-old shooting coach stated, “I’ve been observing them and the instruction of Boss Danding [Cojuangco] to me is to help them improve their shooting. Right now I’ll be focusing on their free-throws. They are missing free-throws [often] because during practice they only take 10-15 free-throws because they are tired already from practice. So now, I will give them extra load.”
Aside from assisting the team in harnessing its shooting skills, the ‘Red Archer’ as many of his colleagues call him added, “I’ll share with them all my experiences, whatever I learned from my coaches before, my experiences in the PBA, and in the international stage, somehow I will relay those to them.”
The Godfather’s influence
Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, Jr., known as ECJ, has been an avid sports patron of La Salle basketball since his time.
Through ECJ’s efforts, La Salle managed to secure commitment from Montalbo, Bollick and Mbala. He continues to watch some of the Archers’ practices and remained visible in almost all the games last season.
Abanilla commended, “In fact, it’s easy to share financial [support], but what I like with Mr. Cojuangco, ECJ as we call him, is that even his own time, he spends with the team. Seeing him watch us practice, watch us during the games, really motivates everyone in this team.”
Being under Cojuangco’s teams such as the Northern Consolidated Cement in 1984-1985, the All-Amateur Magnolia RP Team in 1986 and the PBA teams of San Miguel Beermen from 1993-1998 and Ginebra San Miguel in his last year as a player in 1999, the Triggerman had no hesitations when Cojuangco asked him to join the Green Archers.
He explained, “We treat the Cojuangcos like they are already a part of our families.”
Caidic furthered, “When he asked me to help La Salle, I really have to [agree], because I am very grateful to the Cojuangcos,” Caidic disclosed.
Committed to work for DLSU until the end of UAAP Season 76, the multi-awarded player added, “Whatever it takes to help La Salle, I’ll do it. My 100 percent is here.”