Coming off a clean sweep of collegiate rivals both from the UAAP and NCAA in the Filoil Flying V Premiere Preseason Tournament last summer, the De La Salle Green Archers are no doubt the ‘team to beat’ in the coming UAAP Season 79 men’s senior basketball tourney starting September 4.
With the arrival of 6’9 Cameroonian import Ben Mbala, champion coach Aldin Ayo from Letran, the return of Julian Sargent and Jason Perkins, and the presence of 3-time Mythical Team member Jeron Teng, the Green Archers are stacked with talent.
But former Green Archer Arnold Van Opstal revealed to FOX Sports that no one from those high-profile names who will become La Salle’s trump card this season.
Instead, he pointed out to his former frontcourt mate, who’s been under the radar for quite some time.
“Ever since Abu Tratter came along in his rookie year, I don’t know why he got looked over and got no attention,” Van Opstal lamented.
Tratter, along with Mbala, spent most of the time in Team B serving their residency as they went through the learning curve practicing with Van Opstal and the championship crew of the Season 76.
“When I won championship with La Salle in 2013 and he was coming in. I told media that ‘this guy is massive, this guy is a monster, everything physically, all he has to do is hone some skills and and he’ll be there’,” the former 6’6 Green Archer slotman said.
“And now, we are seeing his performance gets better and better,” he added.
Indeed, in Filoil, Tratter was unleashed.
Already in his third year since he completed his eligibility – inch by inch – Tratter is becoming Taft’s most-hidden treasure.
After averaging just a lowly 1.9 points and and 3.2 rebounds in a total of 21 games in his first two seasons with La Salle, the 6’6 Fil-American Tratter is now starting to scratch his potential as he normed 9.8 markers along with 6.7 boards in the pre-season en route to a Mythical 5 selection.
Tratter’s marked improvement can be a telling factor if La Salle can go all the way according to Van Opstal.
“Everyone is talking about Ben Mbala but I definitely think that Abu is the force to be reckoned with. Because of that, I’m seeing La Salle as one of the toughest team to beat especially that everybody is focusing on Mbala,” Van Opstal said.
While Van Opstal believes La Salle can go all the way, there are two teams in his mind that could pose a threat to their title bid.
“I think it’s still the defending champions FEU, because of Coach Nash (Racela). And of course, Ateneo with Coach Tab (Baldwin),” Van Opstal said. – By John Bryan Ulanday
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