While many from the La Salle faithful are hoping for back-to-back championships this year, the Green Archers’ road to consecutive titles was made a bit tougher after losing four seniors following last year’s championship. Since then, both the team and the players have had to move on from each other as the next chapters of their lives begin.
As for the alumni, each of the former La Salle players has been grinding it out in the PBA D-League with the end goal of making it to the PBA in mind. That dream was finally realized at the PBA Draft last October 29, at the Robinsons Place Manila.
Each of the DLSU alumni was taken and drafted by a team. Jason Perkins and Jeron Teng were chosen consecutively, with the fourth and fifth pick, and will be playing for the Phoenix Fuel Masters and the Alaska Aces, respectively. Julian Sargent was then taken in the second round by the Star Hotshots but was traded later on to Globalport Batang Pier. Lastly, while he had to wait a bit longer than his former teammates, Thomas Torres was chosen in the third round of the draft by the Star Hotshots.
Before the draft last Sunday, The LaSallian was able to catch up with each of the guys during the SLAM Draft Suite to get their thoughts heading into the next chapter.
The draft process
Talking about the entire process, from the Draft Combine to media interviews to the draft itself, each player agreed that they were both nervous and excited to finally get it over with. Sargent, who had just come back from the United States, says, “It’s pretty nerve racking. I just really wanna get it over with. I’ve been working up to this point and it’s gonna be here on Sunday so hopefully it comes faster.”
Torres adds that the entire process made him restless, sharing that right after competing in the D-League, he went straight to preparing for the draft. “Sobrang nakaka-kaba, actually. Everyday parang crucial ‘to na championship game sakin.”
(It’s really nerve racking, actually. Everyday’s like a crucial championship game for me.)
Also, with so much unknown before the draft, the players had to be reminded by the people around them to not worry about the things they cannot control and just to focus on what is front of them. Regarding this, Teng explains, “My brother told me to prepare myself because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the draft. He just told me to be ready for everything.”
After finishing their career in the UAAP and before declaring for the draft, the former Lasallians went to compete in the PBA D-League to somehow accustom themselves to the pro game. They share that playing in a semi-pro league needed some adjusting to, with regards to the level of basketball.
Sargent mused, “A lot of guys in D-League are smarter and they’re older. You can get away with some stuff in college but once you start going up through the ranks I think it gets very tough every step of the way.”
La Salle influence
While still a few months away from their professional basketball debut, the former Lasallians have one thing in mind once they step on the floor: locking down on defense. Being part of the championship team which bested everyone on the defensive end has carried over to their post-UAAP career.
“They made me a defender talaga,” Torres shares when asked about DLSU’s coaching system. “Dumating si coach Aldin na number one priority mo is to play Mayhem defense so it helped a lot.”
But the PBA isn’t just any other league. The rookies will be looking forward to matching up against veteran offensive juggernauts who can drop 30 points or more on any given night. Regardless, Sargent remains confident, saying that he’ll guard “anybody the coach tells me to shut down. I know there are a lot of good players so I’ll just do my best.”
As for Teng, he remains thankful to DLSU for the five years he spent there as it was in the UAAP wherein he was truly put on the map. “I think playing for La Salle really exposed me in general like we were coached also by former PBA coaches. I was able to learn a lot from those coaches and playing from La Salle.”
With all of them entering the draft together, it’s inevitable that each will have to face the other in the pros, along with some former teammates who entered the draft before them. Looking at it, though, each of the former Green Archers was excited at the thought of playing against their friends at the next level.
“All four of us are all competitive so we all want to get a notch above the other,” Sargent explains their relationship. “We all just want to be the best one to have bragging rights, if you know what I mean.”
While Teng is also giddy to get to the “next chapter of their lives,” Perkins adds that he is excited to match up with some former teammates and friends. He says, “Looking forward to playing against Joe Devance. Also my former teammates from La Salle like [LA] Revilla, Norbert [Torres], and Yuts [Andrada].”
Even if they might be wearing different jerseys at some point, they all say that they are all forever Lasallians at heart. All agree that the memories they made at Taft will stay with them forever, the good and the bad. “Yung La Salle, La Salle community. For five years, grabe, roller coaster yung UAAP life ko. Champion, ‘di pumasok sa Final Four, natalo, yung buzzer beater ni Belo, ayun eh. Na-experience ko lahat.”
([I’ll miss] La Salle, and the community. For five years, my UAAP life was a roller coaster ride. Champion, then we didn’t make it to the Final Four, then we lost, the buzzer beater of Belo, yeah. I experienced everything.)
Succeeding in the pros
The new level of competition will require the former Lasallians to improve not only their defense, but all facets of their game. They will be facing players who have been tried and tested, and they will aspire to be the same.
“I always see room for improvement,” former co-captain Teng explains. “What I always work on is my outside shooting. Assists and rebounds also, and of course, I’ve been trying to improve on my defense.”
Perkins, on the other hand, looks to extend his game further, as he aims “to learn how to be more like a guard, a more consistent shooter,” in order to create mismatches.
For Sargent, he wants to showcase the skills he wasn’t able to show while at DLSU, “I’m very excited to showcase everything. At La Salle, I wasn’t able to showcase my offensive game so much so I really want to show all facets of my game.”
Improvements, however, aren’t only set for the court. As they venture into what some may refer to as the “real world”, they look to make themselves more mature. “My mom told me quit doing stupid stuff this morning. That was good advice,” Perkins adds.