The Pilot Episode

25 04 2007

Finally!!! I’m able to sit down and type my very first article for inboundpass.com. A couple of weeks back, I checked out the website and I saw my good friend Tony Atayde’s post (Tony is a fellow member of Celtics Philippines) and for me it was a pleasant surprise. And after much prodding from Mike Abasolo, and a needed break from my hectic(?) music gigs, I was able to gather enough information for my very first article in our website. Of course, for starters, I just have to talk about UP’s basketball team (my alma mater).

The return of Joe Lipa as UP’s head coach last season sparked renewed hope among its faithful of another winning time for the Maroons. After finishing with a 4-8 win-loss record (finishing sixth out of seven teams) in UAAP’s Season 69, questions arose whether the old Lipa magic could still work- it’s bound to happen since Lipa was the main engineer of the Maroon’s only title in 1986. So on my free time I try tried to follow the team’s progress after last season’s campaign.

Last season, it was evident that Lipa had to contend with a very young team. Nine of the players were rookies, five of them coming from the junior ranks. This wasn’t enough support for veterans Marvin Cruz and Nestor David. According to the coach, last year’s team lacked the cohesiveness and chemisrty to make a good run. Since Cruz and David were committed to their PBL teams, the young guns didn’t have enough practice time with the vets. Another problem is the lack of “ceiling” or tall, big men that will man the paint. Only the foul-happy Ira Buyco, thin-reed first timers Galen Cacha & Magi Sison and power forwards David and another rookie VJ Serios (both efficient but “tweeners”) were big enough to face the likes of Ken Bono and Doug Kramer. One bright spot is the performance of the rookies-freshmen like Woody Co, Martin Reyes and Migs De Asis. Though their performance last season weren’t as consistent as the coaches wanted them to be, it was enough to make other teams wary of the trio. In fact, Co bagged the Rookie of the Year award despite of the team’s performance.

Being able to attract blue chip players to play for UP is a tall order, for the school can’t offer more than quality education to these players. But the Lipa magic went full throttle, getting eight blue chip players to become Fighting Maroons, among them Mike Gamboa (Ateneo HS), Mark Lopez & Soc Rivera (FEU-FERN), Cyron Lozano (Ateneo de Davao) and Kyle Yulo (San Beda), among others. Rivera and Lozano will definitely be a help in the middle, while Gamboa will be doing the point guard chores as Marvin Cruz is PBA-bound. Though the team is very young (eight rookies and five sophomores), Lipa likes what he sees as the team has the height, the speed and the perimeter game to make it a complete team. And with an intact team, they are able to practice twice a day and work on the basics, the cohesiveness, the chemistry and the bonding needed for them to stay on the same page.

Coach Lipa has high hopes for the team, not only for Season 70, but for the future wars ahead. Obviously, the coaching staff is looking at 2008 as the year when UP joins the basketball elite. By that time, the blue chips would have gained enough varsity exposure to compete head to head with the powerhouses. For the coming season, he cites come-backing La Salle, defending champs UST, UE and NU as the teams to beat.

Well, so much for the Fighting Maroons. Next stop is Coach Lipa’s take on the Champion’s League and officiating. In the meantime, stay tuned for news and updates on the upcoming Flying V pre-season tournament.

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