Published on September 9th, 2017 | by Khyte Mendoza0
UAAP Season 80 Preview: DLSU Green Archers gun for back-to-back titles!
When you talk about the team-to-beat for UAAP Season 80, there’s that squad who quickly comes to mind – De La Salle University Green Archers.
I’m a writer from the DLSU and I write for La Salle. Yes, I may be picking the Green side. But admit it, with or without bias, the defending champions are the team to beat; the team to dethrone.
Now, let’s backtrack a bit.
Every collegiate basketball follower knows that the DLSU Green Archers wreaked havoc in last year’s men’s basketball tournament. Bannered by Season MVP Big Ben Mbala and then-team captain Jeron Teng, the team only fell once in 14 outings in the elimination rounds.
Thomas Torres-to-Mbala lob vs Ateneo de Manila University, a 43-point demolition against University of Santo Tomas, Ricci Rivero’s reverse slam, and Aljun Melecio’s switch-to-the left layup over Thirdy Ravena in Game 2 of the Finals – those were just some highlights of the Green Archers’ impeccable season.
The lone loss the Green Archers suffered was from their arch-rivals AdMU Blue Eagles when the latter seemed to figure out how to break the mayhem defense of DLSU in their second-round face-off. The ballers from Taft received a timely wake-up call they needed and from then on, they got stronger and wiser heading into the Final Four of UAAP Season 79.
Adamson University gave DLSU a tough initial test as the Soaring Falcons made things hard for the Green shirts until the final buzzer. And when it was time to face the same Katipunan squad that dealt them their first and only defeat, they immediately went for the kill to capture their ninth title.
Yup, that was dominance. But the question is – can they do it again?
The goal for Coach Aldin Ayo and the Green Archers this year is not any different: REPEAT AS UAAP MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPS!
However, it will be difficult with the departure of veterans Teng, Torres, Jason Perkins, and Julien Sargent. All these contributed heavily in their quest to reclaim the throne.
On the flip side, La Salle still has Ben Mbala who came from a monstrous UAAP debut, Rookie of the Year Aljun Melecio, Rivero Brothers, Andrei Caracut, Abu Tratter, Jollo Go, Justine Baltazar, and Brent Paraiso. These guys are poised to step-up their game.
Let’s not forget about the recruits. DLSU has four newcomers that they will be parading in Season 80: Gabrielle Capacio, Joshua Gonzales, Ramil Tero, and Santi Santillan. And by pre-season indications, these young guns will immediately be making marks.
Of course, we wouldn’t forget about the newly appointed team captain Kib Montalbo. The defensive-oriented guard will lead the charge for a young Green Archers squad in their bid for back-to-back titles.
In terms of preparations, Coach Ayo and his wards joined every pre-season and pocket tournament possible. La Salle, who played sans Kib Montalbo because of a nagging injury, once again reached the Finals of the FilOil Premier Cup but suffered defeat at the hands of the San Beda Red Lions.
DLSU played in an inter-university tournament in Taiwan. They were crowned as BLIA Cup Champions after dominating the competition.
Weeks before UAAP Season 80, the Green Archers capped off their preparation stage in the 32nd Kadayawan Cup, where the match-up against Far Eastern University Tamaraws was marred by a melee. But both teams already buried the hatchet as they look forward to the UAAP wars.
The Green and White, though, will start their Season 80 campaign without Ben Mbala who was called-up to play for the Cameroonian National Team in the Afrobasket so he’ll miss their first few games. By the time the season goes into the deep waters, a cause for concern would be Mbala’s availability as he might get called-up anew for Cameroon in the FIBA World Cup Qualifier.
Still, it is a challenge Coach Ayo and the rest of the guys would accept. It means more exposure to the bigs and it will make the team more unpredictable.
Teams will be coming for them this season. Ateneo, Adamson, and FEU just to name a few. But I’m sure that the Green Archers have tricks up their sleeves. And they’re going to pull them off against the Tamaraws starting Sunday, September 10, 4pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.