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La Salle Will Be Great Again, But Not This Year

June 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 171

La Salle's pre-season win over Ateneo last Saturday may give its die-hard fans some hope that the Green Archers are finally back in upper echelon of UAAP basketball but the results in the coming UAAP season is likely going to be disappointing for many.

First off, I am writing this commentary under one important premise: that both teams wanted to win last Saturday. The rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle is so intense that at no point can we assume that one or the other gave the game away.

With all the hoopla and fan support that both teams get whenever they play each other, players and coaches are compelled to give 110% whether it's the pre-season or Game 3 of the UAAP championship.

La Salle rookie Jeron Teng and Ateneo's Ryan Buenafe somehow proves this theory.

Buenafe, who averaged just 3.4 points per game in his first five games prior to Saturday, exploded for 21 points, 10 of which coming from the pivotal fourth period.

On the other hand, Teng, the celebrated rookie from Xavier High School, hit a triple that tied the game at 52-all with less than six seconds left in regulation, setting the stage for the Archers to win the game in overtime.

La Salle-Ateneo games bring out the best in these players.

Norman Black made a similar point during one of his post-game interviews with the media in 2009. He said: "Even before I started coaching Ateneo, I'd watch Ateneo-La Salle games and there were times when La Salle would be the weaker team and they'd win and times when Ateneo was the weaker team and they'd win," said Black.

"It's probably because of the emotions and the supporters from both schools being in the stands, it's really the team that comes out and plays well that night that wins the game."

With that, I can confidently say that the Archers squarely won the game over a team that wanted to win it as much as them.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, although it was a good win for La Salle, it wasn't enough to convince me that La Salle is back in contention. And here are my reasons why:

Inconsistency has been their enemy. It's hard to think that a team that played so inconsistently last season and the three pre-season games leading up to Saturday would go deep into the season. I won't even go back to last season-everyone already knows what happened. Recent events will give us a better read of the Archers' current state.

The Green Archers had a nice start to their pre-season campaign-they won three of their first four games and were actually projecting to tie the Eagles for second place in Group A. But just like that, they faltered against the UE Red Warriors, won against the UPHSD Altas and then lost to the Mapua Cardinals.

All of those three teams are currently in the bottom half of the standings, ahead of only the UP Fighting Maroons. That kind of see-saw performance over three games just shows how youth movement almost always comes at the expense of consistency.

Jeron Teng is not a savior until he is one. There's so much chatter about how Jeron Teng might be the answer that La Salle has been waiting for. After all, he scored a record-breaking 105 points in a high school game against Grace Christian High School in the Tiong Lian Tournament.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the first time a high school player grabbed headlines for scoring so many points. Terrence Romeo of FEU once scored 83 points in the UAAP Juniors Tournament. Joshua Saret had a quadruple-double, not to mention 89 points, for the JRU Light Bombers in the NCAA Juniors. Keith Agovida, another Light Bomber, also caused a lot of buzz when he scored 82 points. None of them scored that much at the Seniors' level.

Although Teng had the opportunity to polish his game as a key member of the RP-Youth Team and possesses a UAAP-ready body, it remains to be seen if he will be as dominant at this level as he was in high school.

In seven games prior to last Saturday, Teng averaged just 10.8 points in 19.1 minutes and shot only 39 percent from the field. It will be surprising to see him take big shots game after game throughout the course of the UAAP season.

Even Mac-Mac Cardona had to defer to Ren-Ren Ritualo when it came to launching clutch shots during his first year in La Salle.

New coach will need time to indoctrinate new philosophy. Coach Gee Abanilla is no stranger to the DLSU bench.

He was a staple on the La Salle bench during La Salle's four-peat years as an assistant to Franz Pumaren. But, he isn't going to run the same system that made the full-court press synonymous to La Salle basketball-which is probably a good idea since it looks like opposing teams have already figured out how to counter the La Salle press.

With this new identity, the Green Archers are likely to experience some growing pains in their first year with Abanilla.

For a short season that runs from July to October, more tenured coaches like Ateneo's Norman Black, Adamson's Leo Austria, NU's Eric Altamirano and FEU's Bert Flores may have the advantage.

That said, I would like to include a disclaimer to this commentary: I am not anti-La Salle. For a full year in 2000, I actually attended their games as a member of the DLSU Pep Squad. And for years, I wrote and wrote about the team for The LaSallian, De La Salle's official student publication. And when I was given an opportunity to cast my vote for the UAAP MVP in 2004, I voted for Mac-Mac Cardona over Arwind Santos.

And even though I stopped following the UAAP for several years because I became too busy building my professional career in my own industry, I would occasionally check on the Old Green and White over the Internet and Studio 23.

For some reason, I never evolved into a rabid La Salle fan, but I love the team. I have so many fond memories covering them.

I am pretty sure they will rise and dominate UAAP basketball again in the future. I believe, that the year-long suspension in 2006 exacerbated what was already expected as a slow rebuilding process.

Good news is that La Salle's big-name recruitment is starting to gain steam. Aside from Teng, expect more blue-chip recruits like Jason Perkins to reinforce the Green Archers in the future.

For La Salle, patience is a virtue.

About is a basketball-centric website covering nothing but hoops action in the Philippines.

Source: EzineArticles
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