Instead of being disheartened with their unimpressive finish in the 2016 FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup, National U coach Eric Altamirano believes the Bulldogs still have enough time to sharpen their teeth in time for the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney that gets going in September.
After winning seven of its first eight matches, NU suffered a pair of back-to-back setbacks in the playoffs, the last a 54-66 decision dealt by UAAP rival Ateneo in their ‘Battle for Third’ place in the prestigious collegiate summer league tourney.
But Altamirano, 49, opted to stick on the positives, saying the Bulldogs could put the bitter lessons into good use ahead of the biggest battle ahead.
“The chemistry, they’re starting to jell together. They’re starting to see what’s the identity of the team. We’re starting to embrace our identity that we’ll have to do it defensively,” said Altamirano, the architect behind the Bulldogs’ UAAP title conquest in 2014.
“I’m really proud of these boys. They’re really playing as a team in terms of togetherness. Very collective sila maglaro,” he added.
While veteran gunner J-Jay Alejandro failed to see action majority of the way due to a foot injury, his absence somehow gave his younger NU teammates the chance to prove their worth, including defense-minded Chino Mosqueda, rookier JV Gallego and transferee Matthew Aquino.
“Positive lang ‘yung mga new players namin, they gained a lot of confidence here. Chino can step up, na-develop niya ‘yung kanyang confidence. Matt Aquino, he’ll a big help this coming season, getting that minutes and establishing himself inside. JV too,” he pointed out.
“It’s really a chance to improve and deepen our bench. Makakatulong talaga sa amin this coming season. Kailangan namin maging consistent sa ginagawa namin.”
Aside from fine-tuning their plays, Altamirano said they will also focus on helping the Bulldogs’ improve conditioning-wise with the help of reknowned strength and conditioning coach Dan Rose.
“This coming months, we’re start focusing on our conditioning and sharpening our execution,” he said.
“Itong FilOil, its really a feel-out for everybody. Giving them a chance to play and getting use play with each other,” Altamirano added. “We’ll take in stride, learn from this and improve more for the coming UAAP season.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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