After witnessing the 85th season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball tournament, no one can doubt the talent DLSU Green Archers rookie Penny Estacio brought to his team as he made a mark in his first playing season for the Green and White. After turning heads as a spitfire guard among the ranks of the FEU Baby Tamaraws back in high school, the young point guard took his game to the collegiate level, proving to be an offensive spark plug for La Salle.
Although the Green Archers prematurely finished their last campaign in fifth place, Estacio is now hungry to bounce back next season with an improved level of play, determined to conquer the court once again alongside his new teammates and coaches to reclaim the crown.
Recovering from a rough season
The up-and-down experience was definitely tough for the Taft-based squad, with holdovers from Season 84 and incoming rookies having to adjust to each other in a short amount of time. Despite the harsh ride, Estacio shares how much he valued his team’s effort, “No matter what the result is, I still love my team. I’m also really blessed with the opportunities given to me as a rookie.” Even though they fell short of reaching the Final Four, he believes that there are much more opportunities to come in the future.
Estacio confidently admits that he did not regret his performance during the season, as he made sure that he played his best in every game. Instead, he elaborates that he has a lot of aspirations and ambitions as an athlete, already mentioning his plans for the succeeding seasons. “My preparation would be keeping myself healthy all season. I would really like to focus on improving my body and enhancing my skills before the season starts,” he explains. There is a lot in store for the reliable point guard as he looks forward to coming back stronger than ever in the upcoming UAAP Season 86.
Reminiscing the highs and the lows
Despite the slow start and anti-climactic finish, Estacio’s rookie run was highlighted by moments that showed a promising future. The young floor general shared that his most memorable moment from their last season was his side’s first-round game against their most renowned rival team, the Ateneo Blue Eagles. “Playing in a big crowd in a La Salle versus Ateneo game is something else,” he expresses. Indeed, the rivalry between the green and blue schools supersedes anything else, and, for a player of Estacio’s caliber, having the opportunity to have his first start in a game of that gravity is a moment that he will never forget.
At the peak of the season, the Green Archers found themselves in a tight race for a Final Four spot. Although they fell short, Estacio showed his resilience as he played his heart out during a crucial game against the then-second-seeded NU Bulldogs. The rookie guard showcased his deep bag, hitting his shots from what seemed to be everywhere on the court. “My confidence during that game was something else,” he reminisces. The incoming sophomore stressed how he wanted to get back on track after a bad outing against UP. “I really wanted to bounce back and [so I] spent extra time shooting [during] the practice before the game,” he reveals. That breakout game of his rounded off his score sheet with 13 markers, including three big three-pointers, and was enough to earn him the Player of the Game award. He expressed that it was one of the biggest games in his young career, “that was [a] really big game for me since it’s my first [Player of the Game award] in the collegiate rank.”
A new scenery ahead
With the beginning of a new season always filled with anticipation and optimism for athletes, a new tactician taking charge of the helm can also amplify players’ and fans’ excitement for what a team has in store. A new coach can bring new perspectives, new strategies, and a different way of analyzing the game—which is what DLSU hopes the newly-hired Green Archers Head Coach Topex Robinson can do.
For Estacio, being under Robinson gives players a breath of fresh air. “We’ve been adjusting pretty well. He brings a new culture that’s been doing the team nothing but good and positivity,” he reflects.
But getting used to a new coaching staff is a gradual process. Athletes must comprehend that it is a process that must be met with patient and persistent efforts from the team. For Estacio, being under Robinson’s wing has been a new learning experience compared to his time with Derrick Pumaren, the team’s former head coach. “He’s a player’s coach. Hopefully [we] adjust well and keep on improving,” he shares.
As their off-season grind continues, Estacio is prepared to face the challenges and opportunities presented by a new coach and system and to strive to reach his full potential on the court. The key to success is embracing new ideas and strategies, working hard to master the new system, maintaining a positive attitude, and being patient as the process unfolds.
With the right mindset and approach, the team’s new environment might just be the much-needed push for him to blossom into his role for the Green Archers and be the difference maker that brings back men’s basketball glory to Taft.
“My goal [is to] bring La Salle back to the finals,” the spitfire guard exclaims. For Lasallians and basketball fans alike, everyone would love to see Estacio and his fellow Green Archers achieve this goal in the upcoming season.