The supremacy of the Green Archers has wavered after failing to take Final Four slots for two straight UAAP seasons, leaving the Lasallian community to reassess the state of the team. Coaching changes and several one-and-done insertions were intended to revitalize the team, but the results of these experimental moves did not live up to expectations as gaps in the performance of the players hindered the team from synchronizing.
Still in search for team chemistry, the task of reclaiming DLSU’s reign in UAAP basketball next season has fallen into the hands of new head coach “Manong” Derrick Pumaren. Moreover, the addition of reinforcements from Senagalese Amadou Ndiaye, along with Filipino-Americans Jeromy Hughes and Kameron Vales, will bolster the Taft-based roster and fortify the hope in raising the banner of the Green-and-White once again.
Green Archers manager Raffy Villavicencio shares a glimpse of the plans being undertaken to pursue a promising future for the team, as well as the progress of the Lasallian squad amid the pandemic.
Two seasons have passed since the Green Archers last hurdled past the elimination stage of the UAAP, and each early exit adds to the hunger of the team to get back to the limelight as champions.
After then-DLSU coach Aldin Ayo transferred to UST in 2017, the Green Archers promoted Louie Gonzales to the head coach position for Season 81, and hired Jermaine Byrd as consultant for Season 82. This revolving door of coaches brought about a lack of consistency and continuity, which posed problems for the players adjusting to each coach’s distinct system and points of emphasis.
However, the hiring of Pumaren is expected to offer better results this time around.
Villavicencio trusts that Pumaren will bring a different perspective to Taft, as he notes, “All the coaches want discipline from their team, [but] coach Derrick will probably just kick that up a notch higher.” Furthermore, the system Pumaren intends to instill in his players is mainly oriented on defense, imitating the full-court press trademark of the Pumaren brothers—the “Pumaren Press”.
Within a short period of time, Pumaren’s coaching style has already brought La Salle, under the name Eco-Oil Green Archers, two game victories in the PBA D-League back in March.
Shaping up for 83
The road back to championship contention may have to wait a little longer, brought about by the uncertainty of collegiate sports’ return due to the COVID-19 situation.
“We doubt if the season can start in August or September [this year],” remarks Villavicencio on the UAAP’s possible timeline for Season 83. “We’re probably looking at early next year, and that’s also because after the quarantine is lifted, the players still need to get back in shape, and practices on a regular basis must happen [before competing].”
Driven as they are, the Archers did not let the lack of in-person interaction hamper their desire to improve. The coaches and players have been coordinating with each other to conduct remote training programs while under quarantine. “At present, the coaches have had the players continue to keep in shape by doing regular exercises in their own homes and conducting physical conditioning via Zoom,” describes Villavicencio of the team’s efforts to stay engaged and maintain fitness.
Appraising the equally-revamped rosters of the rest of the league, Villavicencio remarks, “Those that made the Final Four last year will be formidable.” This comes as little surprise given the depth of UP and FEU, the intact core of UST, and the championship pedigree of Ateneo—not to mention former NU star Dave Ildefonso and Dwight Ramos now joining the four-peat-seeking Blue Eagles.
Even so, Villavicencio recognizes the young crop of talent of the other teams. “They should not be discounted; AdU has Franz [Pumaren], and NU and UE could spring some surprises,” he points out.
With this, the Green Archers management also stepped up in the recruiting process. San Beda breakout player Evan Nelle already gave his word to don the Green-and-White as replacement for Aljun Melecio in the point guard position starting Season 84.
The Green Archers may have lost talents in the past few years, but those issues will soon be outshined by the young recruits of the DLSU men’s basketball team who are eager to make their mark in the game.
Other notable additions to the program include the aforementioned Ndiaye, Hughes, and Vales; Luke Sese and Emman Galman from Perpetual Help; Joshua Ramirez formerly from Letran; CJ Austria from UE; Warren Calara from TIP and Jonnel Policarpio from the Mapua Red Robins. Two forwards who were superb in the high school division have also committed to the Green Archers starting Season 83.
“As to other possible recruits, rest assured that the team is always on the lookout for players that will fit our system,” Villavicencio shares, assuring that “the recruitment process continues” and that the Archers’ management “already know who [they] want” to bring to Taft.
Players, coaches, and fans alike have been raring for DLSU to return to their glory days. Given the recent developments to the Taft-based men’s basketball program, the Lasallian community is abuzz with anticipation, and a few more months of waiting should be well worth it.