Host University of Santo Tomas suffered a big blow days before the start of the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney as the league’s Eligibility Committee ruled veteran guard Jamil Sheak Sheriff ineligible after going over the league’s age limit.
The 5-foot-7 Sheriff, a Fil-Canadian guard, turned 25 years old last July 21 and was deemed ineligible since an existing league rule states that a “student-athlete should not be older than 24 years by July 31”, the usual start of the UAAP calendar.
The development can be considered a tough pill to swallow for the Growling Tigers, last year’s losing finalists, who are aching to fill up the void left by their dreaded ‘Big 3’ of star wingman Kevin Ferrer, top guard Ed Daquioag and Cameroon center Karim Abdul.
“Tama ‘yung age, ‘yung birthday ang mali,” first-year UST coach Rodil ‘Boy’ Sablan said in jest during a phone interview with FOX Sports on Thursday night.
“Last week pa nga namin ‘yan napag-usapan pero hindi muna namin inilabas. Nagbakasakali muna rin kami. Kailangan na lang tanggapin ‘yung ruling tapos mag-adjust na lang sa rotation,” he added.
Sablan, however, sounded confident that the remaining UST guards—sophomore Marvin Lee, Renzo Subido and rookie Oliver de Guzman—are all capable of filling in the shoes left by Sheriff, who has been the Tigers’ starting guard last year.
Replacing Sheriff on their official 16-man lineup is also not part of Sablan’s plans.
“Sa ngayon hindi ko pa iniisip na palitan siya. Wala na rin naman kasi akong plano dahil buo na ang team ko. Isa lang naman nawala kaya may 15 pa akong players. Kumpleto pa rin naman ang team,” he said.
Known for his defensive intensity, Sheriff could have played a vital role for UST starting against Ateneo on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Sablan, however, isn’t one to cry over spilled milk, hoping the rest of the Tigers can chip in to compensate Sheriff’s loss.
“Malaking bagay si Jan lalo ‘yung leadership niya. Magaling rin dumipensa at masipag. Kaya sabi ko sa kanila, pagtulung-tulungan na lang namin kung paano pupunan ‘yung role ni Sheriff,” said Sablan.
“Hindi rin naman kasi magagawa agad ng iba ‘yung trabaho niya. Kaya sinasabihan ko sila na idoble ang efforts sa defense and make extra passes more sa offense. Wala naman akong ibang hahanapan niyan kung hindi sa mga natira sa team,” he added.
Sheriff averaged 3.22 points, 3.24 rebounds and 2.15 assists per game during his three-year stint with UST, highlighted by a pair of UAAP Finals trip.
The Varsitarian, the official school organ of UST, first broke the story. – Jerome Lagunzad
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