If National U intends to reclaim the throne in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament, the Bulldogs need no less than a consistent and dominant form from Cameroon import Alfred Aroga.
According to former NU star and current TNT KaTropa prized rookie Troy Rosario, the 6-foot-6 Aroga remains as the biggest piece of the championship puzzle for the Bulldogs, who are eager to return to the “Promised Land” after reaching the destination in 2014.
While NU has kept itself at par with the league’s leaders, having won three of its first five matches for a share of second spot, Aroga has yet to display his deadly form on a consistent basis as he’s visibly hampered by a hamstring injury which he sustained in the off-season.
The positive for Aroga this season is his strong belief that the offense shouldn’t be centered around him as coach Eric Altamirano tried to make some tweaks on the team’s system.
Aroga’s season-averages though remain noteworthy with 11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and as many blocks so far.
Rosario, however, is convinced Aroga is looking at the bigger picture, knowing he’ll eventually need a strong support from the other Bulldogs for the tough battles ahead.
“Sa tingin ko gusto niya i-involve ang mga ibang teammates niya kaya rin siya siguro nag-i-struggle. Kasi alam niya na hindi niya kayang buhatin mag-isa,” said the KaTropa freshman, who personally watched NU’s 75-68 victory over host University of Santo Tomas last Sunday night.
One of the vital cogs in the Bulldogs’ first UAAP title in more than six decades, Rosario added Aroga, despite his slow start, can rediscover his fierce form in time with his winning mentality.
“Kilala ko yan si Alfred. Gagawin niya talaga ang lahat para makatulong sa teammates niya at manalo,” he stressed.
While NU coach Eric Altamirano wants to see more bite from his wards in the endgame, Rosario is pleased to see the Bulldogs’ composure in the face of the Growling Tigers’ determined fightback from a 25-point deficit.
“Muntik ng nahabol pero hindi sila nag-give up. May time na nag-struggle sila sa offense nila but at the end of the game, nakuha pa rin nila ‘yung panalo. Nandu’n ‘yung eagerness nilang manalo, tsaka ‘yung composure,” he said.
While he admitted it remains to be seen if NU can make it back to the Finals, Rosario believes the the Bulldogs have what it takes to at least make it to the Final Four.
“Sa tingin ko kung magtutuluy-tuloy ang pag-improve ng bawat isa sa kanila, aabot sila ng Final Four,” he said. – Jerome Lagunzad