A look at the standings of UST Tigers, many might say that Tigers played just like Season 73. For a couple of reasons I will agree with them since at the end of the first round of eliminations, the team of Coach Pido Jarencio is toting a three wins and four loss card, not different from last year. Another is the teams that they have beaten this first round are the same teams they clinched with a win last year namely NU Bulldogs, UE Red Warriors and UP Fighting Maroons.
But it is better if we dig deeper into numbers before judging that the team has not improved, because as far as I am concerned, I saw a huge turn around in the Tiger’s game – number of wins do lie but statistics don’t.
Now in this half way mark analysis, let’s go deep into the numbers to show the improvement of UST Tigers in UAAP Season 74 Men’s Senior Basketball.
The Fortuna Factor
Tigers’ guard Jeric Fortuna has now grown up. From his I-don’t-care-to-you attitude before, now he learns to be the leader of his squad. Being the extension of Jarencio on the court, Fortuna now looks to set his teammates up first before taking the matter into his own hands when there is no other option.
Just like in their first win against NU, Fortuna served as the stabilizer when his teammates are at a loss after their lead was eaten up by the Bulldogs. Knocking in back to back threes which send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Fortuna also does it all, including the game clinching basket in their final possession.
That improvement of Fortuna is a positive sign for Jarencio into the second round.
The addition of Cameroonian center Karim Abdul into UST lineup is a big factor for their first round success.
With Abdul in the team, Jarencio now has a legitimate center which enables him to put in a big lineup with Chris Camus returning to his original position in the power forward and Carmelo Afuang playing the number three plus the two Jeric’s in the back court.
That formation in the frontline has upped Tigers defense several notches: with Abdul manning the paint, Camus is now concentrating at doing little things including pressing opponent’s ball handlers which results in either a block shot or a steal.
If his dominant game against DLSU Green Archers, where he scored 21 points and 11 rebounds, is a sign of his improvement, then he will be a scare to any other centers out there.
However, one thing that Abdul must work out is his foul management. Jarencio is having a hard time putting him in the court longer since he is prone to hacking his opponents. That is why Jarencio is forced to put him as the third backup center to Kent Lao and Paolo Pe to limit his fouls.
The green minds
In terms of team play, the Tigers are slowly getting the numbers of DLSU Green Archers and FEU Tamaraws.
If in the past few seasons, Archers and Tamaraws treat Tigers as their warm up game (where they inserted almost all the players in their lineup), but this season they failed to do so.
Maybe we can say that Tigers loss to Tamaraws is the ugliest loss of Jarencio’s team this season, (since Tigers led most of the way until buckling down in the end via a trifecta from Chris Tolomia) still a three point loss against the power house team of Bert Flores is a huge development.
In Season 72, the Tamaraws first beat Tigers on August 6, 2009 with a final score of 90-63, another is on August 15, 2009 when they manhandled the Tigers 75-67, for an average loss margin of 17.5 points.
In Season 73, Tamaraws first defeat Tigers on August 7, 2010, 65-57, then followed up that by 76-67 domination for an average loss margin of 8.5 points.
And now compare that with a 62-59 loss to them last July 30, isn’t that a huge enhancement?
And now let’s look at Archers’ numbers, in season 72 the Archers first defeat was August 2, 2009 to the tune of 101-92 in overtime, and then followed by 68-64 loss on September 3 of the same year for an average loss margin of 6.5 points.
In Season 73, Archers’ renew their domination by beating Tigers, 61-53 on August 1, 2010 and followed up by 78-69 loss in September 2, 2010 for an average loss margin of 8.5 points.
Then compare that to 74-71 loss to them on August 11, 2011. Isn’t that a huge enhancement?
Credit that to the defense of the Tigers, which arguably went up several notches this season, especially the tall frontline of Jarencio’s squad.
Just don’t compare them yet with Adamson Falcons and Ateneo Blue Eagles who are on their peak this season.
So far, this year’s rookie batch is the most talent-laden compared to the last two seasons. Aside from having two junior MVP’s in the team, most of them have the potential to go big in the coming years.
Everyone knows that Kevin Ferrer and Karim Abdul can be the fire and ice of Jarencio at least in the next two seasons.
Also those who can be the future of Tigers are Dan Sheriff, Louie Vigil, Kent Lao and Robin Tan. Although their numbers were deceiving, but they are impressive everytime Jarencio call their numbers.
Ron Javier and Jaypee Sarcia are teams other tyros that has yet to pull out their black and gold warmers this season.
But again compare that with the Marco Cam, Andrew Felix, Darrel Green and Rushdy Hadi of Season 72 and Vince Tinte, Edcor Marata and Kenneth Mamaril of Season 73, definitely this year’s batch has the better showing.
With Ferrer, Vigil and Sarcia as the source of points, Abdul with rebounds and Sheriff and Tan with assists, this group really can boom.
Next year is the year?
Just imagine what UST Tigers will be next season with only Chris Camus not returning and the comeback of Aljon Mariano, Clark Bautista and possibly Eduardo Daquioag, then Tigers really are aiming none other than a final four finish.
The possible Tigers starting five on Season 75 will be Fortuna, Jeric Teng, Ferrer, Abdul and Afuang. Second stringers of Sheriff, Vigil, Mariano, Pe and Bautista. Third team with Kim Lo, Tan, Daquioag, Lao, Javier and Sarcia.
The Tigers only need to find a replacement for Camus, maybe reserve forward Daniel De Guzman can be the answer. He almost made it into the lineup this season until relegated to Team B with the entry of Kent Lao.
With that roster plus if they were lucky to get some of the available rookies (maybe J.T.) on summer, I can see that we can “upset” the current big four and maybe snatch a place there with Adamson and FEU starting from scratch with the departure of the core of their team.
Will next year be the year? Possibly.
By Adrian Stewart Co (Contributor)