Playing more games together help sharpened the resolve of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in Season 85 of the University Athletic Association Philippines men’s basketball tournament.
Coach Goldwin Monteverde said this as the Maroons get ready to defend their crown.
“It (the field) has the same conditions from the last season. The only difference is that most of the players have game-play exposure from tournaments held in pre-season,” said Monteverde.
He explained that the young players of the squad had a chance to experience different situations when they played in pre-season tournaments like the FilOil-EcoOil and the UCBL Pre-Season tournaments.
The Fighting Maroons also went to South Korea in the last week of August for a three-week camp and had friendlies with Korean Basketball League teams Changwon LG, Jeonju KCC, Seoul Samsung, Ulsan Hyundai Mobis, and Seoul SK.
Last season, there was a lack of tournaments because of the quarantine lockdowns. But the presence of numerous intercollegiate tournaments in between the two seasons of the UAAP this year was helpful in their buildup.
“We needed to play as many games as possible to jell as a team,” added Monteverde.
Senior players Ricci Rivero and Noah Webb have graduated and left, leaving the Maroons to up-and-coming players like Carl Tamayo and JD Cagulangan, the hero in Game 3 of their best-of-three finals with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
The return of Fil-American cager Zavier Lucero, who decided to play professional basketball in Taiwan, is expected to keep the Maroons in contention for the crown.
On the other hand, National University, Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas managed to do well in their pre-season campaigns.
“You have the benefit of longer preparation. So it’s unpredictable. And when you’re unpredictable, there’s excitement,” said UAAP executive director Rene Saguisag Jr. on the ongoing buildups.
The Maroons battle the La Salle Green Archers at 4 p.m. on opening day (Oct. 1) at the Mall of Asia Arena, while the Adamson Falcons meet the Growling Tigers earlier at 2 p.m.