Former La Salle forward Matt Salem insists he harbors no ill feelings towards the Green Archers when he and NU plunge back to action on Sunday in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-3 Salem previously saw action for 2 seasons with La Salle, including the team’s title run in 2013 under Juno Sauler, but decided to transfer to NU in 2014 and underwent a one-year residency before getting the nod from Bulldogs coach Eric Altamirano this year.
And so far, Salem appears to have a new home with the Bulldogs, averaging solid numbers of 9.5 points and 8.0 rebounds while emerging as a floor spacer with his outside shooting.
“I just go out there and do what I got to do and play my role,” he said following NU’s 70-60 victory over Ateneo last Sept. 11. “That’s the only way I can help the team out. We got specific roles in our team so we have to do what we’re supposed to do.”
While he fell out of favor during his second year with the Green Archers when he played for just 5 games, Salem admitted he values his stint with La Salle.
“I have nothing against them. We’re a family here,” he stressed. “I know all those players. There’s no hard feelings.”
While he’s excepted to provide the needed firepower, Salem should also be tested defensively as he’s tipped to contend with the likes of La Salle’s plethora of big men, led by Cameroonian import Ben Mbala, Abu Tratter, Prince Rivero and rookie Justine Baltazar.
“La Salle is a tough team this year and they’re all big. It’s gonna be really hard but we’re focused on it,” he stressed. “we’re just gonna out there and do what we’ve got to do.”
While they have won their first two matches, Salem is conscious enough that the road remains rock strewn for the Bulldogs. “Everyone here in UAAP is tough so it’s gonna be harder from hereon. It’s just the beginning,” he said. — By Jerome Lagunzad