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Evan Nelle, Mark Nonoy lead La Salle’s new backcourt

Highly regarded as star players in their former schools, Evan Nelle and Mark Nonoy once lit up college basketball by entertaining fans across the country as they led their respective teams to the finals. Now, they are embarking on a new journey in their collegiate careers as members of the DLSU Green Archers.

In light of the UAAP’s cancellation and the imposition of quarantine measures across the country, Nelle and Nonoy share their experiences on adjusting to a whole new sporting environment, including expectations for themselves and the entire team, as they yearn to bring glory to their new school.

Up and coming backcourt duo

After failing to bag a Final Four spot in the last two seasons, the Green Archers are longing to see a finish above fifth place. With the addition of both these highly talented guards, fans of the Green-and-White can be excited to watch the future success they may bring to the school.

Both Nelle and Nonoy show optimism with the idea of becoming a duo. “Excited ako kasi si Evan pass-first na point guard, puwede naman akong combo guard para sa kanya. Mas madali na lang para sa akin kasi nandiyan si Evan,”Nonoy expresses.

(I’m excited because Evan is a pass-first point guard. I can be a combo guard for him. It’ll be easier for me because Evan is there.)

Nelle shares the same thoughts, “It’s exciting kasi siyempre kilala na si Mark. He knows his ways in UAAP; I know my ways through NCAA. I know how he plays, and he knows how I play, so the familiarity is there.”

But transferring to a different school poses additional challenges for the student-athletes. On top of the new culture and academic responsibilities, transferees are also challenged to keep or surpass the level of gameplay that they have had in the past.

For Nelle, there are specific goals in mind. “Gusto ko ulitin ‘yung Mythical Five from my last playing year in the NCAA—I want to top that hopefully. Bring La Salle not only to the Final Four but to a championship.”

When asked about where he wants to see themselves as a backcourt when all is said and done, Nelle explains, “One of the best, coach Derrick [Pumaren] talked to me, and he talked to Mark on what we have to do. He said we had to top everyone off.”

Fitting into a new team

With only a few holdovers from the previous year, the Green Archers are going to have a new-look squad when the UAAP reopens during Season 84. Forming a new team will pose a ton of challenges for the players and the staff, but this is something both Nelle and Nonoy are ready for.

Nelle is used to seeing himself in winning situations, as a former champion and Mythical Five member during his days with San Beda. A leader in his previous team, Nelle reveals, “I have to relate back to my old team in San Beda since we had a good run.” Nelle emphasizes that the key to the success of his old team was to their camaraderie on and off the court, before and after the games. With this new-look team, he’s looking to carry over some of the things that brought success to his days in San Beda with very little holdover from the previous season’s squad.

However, fitting into a new team is no easy task. But Nonoy wants to prove to people that going to Taft was the right decision for him. “Magkaiba at bago yung sistema na papasukan ko. Siguro, hihigitan ko pa ‘yung nagawa ko last season. Gusto ko na tama na lumipat ako sa La Salle, [na] tama ‘yung mga coaches na nag-guide sa’kin, [at] gusto ko lang talaga na hindi ako comfortable kung ano meron ako noong last season,” Nonoy shares.

(The system I’m going into is different and new. I want to go beyond what I did last season. I want to be able to say that going to La Salle was the right choice, that the coaches were right to guide me, and that I just was not comfortable with what I achieved last season.)

A team for the present and the future

There is a lot of excitement and optimism around the new-look squad, with the Green Archers having been able to nab a ton of current and young talent. Although because of the pandemic, the team has not socialized and trained together much.

Nonoy finds that as a new team, they will only be able to see what they have once full on court training resumes. “‘Yung iba kasi rookie pa lang, iilan lang kami ang nakalaro noong Season 81,” he says. When it comes to building team chemistry, this can only be truly built during training, and Nonoy is keen on getting training camp started in order to continue to build as a team and accomplish the school’s aspirations.

(Some of the players are only rookies and only a handful of us have played during Season 81.)

Despite the barriers, Nelle expects only the best for the squad. “Champions, I’m not gonna lie,” he proclaims, describing what he hopes the Taft-based team would achieve for this upcoming season and for the seasons that will follow. Nelle says that coach Derrick has been very vocal in their Zoom meetings and that he wants the team to have a tunnel-vision mindset when it comes to winning, “Coach Derrick said in Zoom na if you are not in it for the championship, you should be last place. Why compete at all if you are not in it for the championship?” Nelle comments.

With the season rumored to start in the first quarter of next year, Nelle and Nonoy are excited for what the future holds with the Green-and-White. They have set some high expectations for themselves and the team. With the guidance of coach Derrick and a rejuvenated backcourt, it seems that La Salle’s future is in the right hands.

By Miguel Robles

By Rain Leoncio

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