Ceiling? Check. Versatility? Check. Fresher legs? Check.
This early, NU coach Eric Altamirano likes what he sees from the current pack of Bulldogs, hoping that could translate into a successful title run in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament in September.
“The way I see this team, the way we started the program at NU five years ago, this has to be it,” Altamirano, 51, told FOX Sports on Monday afternoon after presiding the drills in their two-hour training session at the Gold’s Gym Athletics in Mandaluyong City.
“I can see this team from that phase level. We’re starting from scratch. This is a completely new team. Naubos na ‘yung mga galing du’n sa Gelo Alolino era,” he added, referring to his steady playmaker who played a key role in their 2014 title conquest, giving NU its first UAAP men’s cage crown after 60 long years.
Although they won’t have the services of Alolino and top defender Pao Javelona, who both have utilized their 5-year playing eligibility, the Bulldogs remain a potent force behind key returnees Cameroonian Alfred Aroga, J-Jay Alejandro, and Rev Diputado and the entry of top recruit JV Gallego and former Adamson forward Matt Aquino.
“Compared to last year, mas marami kaming malalaki ngayon. Last year kasi, it’s very hard for us because we lost a lot of big men,” stressed Altamirano, referring to their athletic forwards Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin, part of their 2014 championship winning team who are now playing in the pro ranks.
“It was hard for us to compete with the other teams kasi wala kaming celing. We could not get our usual game going. Normally, we control the rebounds and dominate the paint. Now we have the materials, people who can help us get rebounds,” added Altamirano.
Also part of the 25-man pool which will be trimmed down to the Final 16 are former Philippine Youth team standouts Michael Pate and Cedrick Labing-isa, who could give the Bulldogs added depth and versatility if and when they get the nod.
“That’s our objective: To be able to come up with a balanced team. A team that can be flexible and utilize players on every position. At least come up with 2 to 3 players per position,” said Altamirano.
Although he has yet to size up the true potential of the current Bulldogs, Altamirano can’t help but be thrilled.
“I like what I see on this team. Their (collective) attitude. They’re hungry. They can only get better. There’s really gonna be a lot of growing pains and learning. It’s really just a matter of time when this team matures to be a potent squad,” he concluded. — By Jerome Lagunzad