Now a few months removed from winning the UAAP Season 79 Men’s Basketball Championship, the DLSU Green Archers have their sights on their next goal: clinching back-to-back titles, and repeating not only in the UAAP, but in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup as well. Over the next month, La Salle will take an important step in its quest for success as it begins its FilOil campaign. During this time, the team will look to keep the form it showcased in Season 79 which led the Green-and-White all the way to the championship.
In the group stages, DLSU will face familiar foes in the ADMU Blue Eagles, the UST Growling Tigers, and the UE Red Warriors. The Green Archers will also get a chance to play National Collegiate Athletic Association’s powerhouses, the Letran Knights and San Beda Red Lions. Additionally, the team will face the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) D-League’s Flying V Thunder in a tune-up game. What makes the upcoming matchup with the Thunder interesting is the possibility of La Salle facing former team captain Jeron Teng.
Incorporating new faces
Losing four key players to graduation from last year’s squad, DLSU will be looking to find a way to replicate the production of the players it lost. Knowing there is no definite way to replace Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, Jason Perkins, and Julian Sargent, the team is looking to rely on its team chemistry to get the job done, instead of putting the burden all on one player.
“We are entering FilOil with a mindset [of] underdogs ’cause we lost a lot of seniors, but we are prepared and confident that as a team, we will be able to defend our FilOil crown,” said reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player (MVP) Ben Mbala. While they did lose multiple key players, DLSU is also adding talent that can contribute in big ways, as soon as this year.
Troy Mallillin, who was NCAA MVP in his senior year at La Salle Green Hills, is one of the players to watch this preseason. His ability to score is important for a team that just lost Teng.
Another addition to the team is transferee Leonard Santillan. After doing his residency, the former University of Visayas player looks ready to make an impact on this year’s team. In the recently concluded MILCU Summer Showcase game against LPU (Lyceum of the Philippines University) , Santillan scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds for La Salle.
Other possibilities for the team are Gabe Capacio, who was a Team B player last year, Joshua Gonzales, a transferee from UE, Ramil Tero, formerly of St. Clare College, and JBoy Gob, who may return to action, after missing all of last year with a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament).
For the tournament, Mbala has one thing in mind for the team, which is to improve its team play. “FilOil will definitely help us in working on our team chemistry,” he said. Also, he emphasized that no one on the team is focusing on individual awards, just on constant improvement.
“For the personal awards, I will say what I said last year. My main focus is on helping the team be on top, not focusing on getting personal awards,” explained Mbala. In the tournament, though, La Salle will be keeping a close eye on players to see which mix might make the best fit for the starting line-up.
While Mbala is set to lead the team in the post, there is much internal competition for the remaining spots in the team’s rotation. For the guards, there is the trio of Aljun Melecio, Kib Montalbo, and Andrei Caracut, with most likely only two playing as starters and the other as the team’s sixth man. Aside from this, head coach Aldin Ayo will also have to figure out if Ricci Rivero is ready to take on an increased role compared to last season.
So far in the preseason, Rivero has displayed his scoring proficiency. In their recent showcase against LPU (Lyceum of the Philippines University), he scored 23 points to lead the team to a 100-65 victory. Last years holdovers Mbala and Abu Tratter were also named to the Mythical Five, with the former being named tournament MVP and Best Defensive Player.
While the competition is only for La Salle’s buildup to UAAP Season 80, winning it will provide the team good momentum heading into its main tournament. The Green Archers will play their first game of the tournament today, May 1, at 1:30 pm, as they face the JRU Heavy Bombers at the FilOil Flying V Centre.