Veteran guard Monbert Arong is starting to emerge as a go-to-guy for defending champion Far Eastern U in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
Given extended playing time by Tamaraws coach Nash Racela, the 6-foot Arong proved solid in the Tamaraws’ last two victories, averaging 15.0 points on a sizzling 48 percent shooting from the field on top of 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 25 minutes of play.
Racela, however, admitted he’s more pleased to see the lefty Arong thrive more on the defensive end where the University of Southern Philippines is getting the needed confidence.
“When he started focusing on defense and defending the best players of the other team, ‘yung offense niya dumadating na lang,” said Racela following FEU’s close 51-59 victory over University of the Philippines last Sunday, enabling them to gain a share of second spot with a 3-2 mark.
While he got bothered by cramps in their first few matches, Arong seemed to have finally embraced his bigger role on his final tour of duty with the Tamaraws.
“Focused lang ako sa game kasi sinasabihan ako ni coach na defense lang muna. Inuumpisahan ko sa defense at nagtutuluy-tuloy na lang,” he said. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa tiwala niya sa akin.”
Against the Fighting Maroons, Arong was at his deadly best in the crunch when he tallied three marginal points, including a tough turnaround jumper over UP defender Jarrell Lim, giving FEU a 50-47 cushion with 14.6 seconds to play.
“It was just a change of mentality for Monbert,” stressed Racela. “We’re all happy to see na nagdi-deliver siya.”
Arong, however, refused to take all the credit for his late-game brilliance, saying: “Sinusunod lang namin ‘yung sistema ni coach. Hindi kami nag-give up until the end. At ‘yung pinaka-importante na part, nag-communicate kami in the last quarter para makuha namin ang panalo.” – Jerome Lagunzad
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