#UAAP79 Outlook: UP Fighting Maroons

Lakers have ‘a lot of room to improve’ after losing season opener – LeBron James

Who’s out: Agustini Amar, Cheick Kone, Mark Juruena, JR Gallarza 

Who’s back: Paul Desiderio, Jett Manuel, Diego Dario, Henry Asilum, Dave Moralde, Pio Longa, Gelo Vito, Jerson Prado, Jarrell Lim, Andrew Harris, Janjan Jaboneta, Noah Webb, Kyles Lao (returning from injury), Pao Romero (returning from injury)
Who’s new: JJ Española, Javi Gomez de Liaño, coach Bo Perasol
Season 78 Record & Finish: 3-11, 7th place
2016 Filoil Record & Finish: 2-5, 6th place in Group A
What should work in S79:
I doubt that there will be any Fighting Maroon in consideration for a spot in the season’s Mythical Selection. Okay, maybe Jett Manuel if UP manages to pile upwards of five wins, and he puts up crazy monster numbers. Heck, if Ed Daquioag’s production nearly doubled in the span of just one season, who’s to say Manuel cannot do the same, right?
Of course, to even assume that Jett Manuel is pretty much the only thing UP can brag about on the hardcourt doesn’t do justice to many of the other talents on this roster. Let’s see. Lao, Dario, Asilum, Vito, Desiderio, and Romero were all part of the RP-Youth program in the past (mostly in the Energen Pilipinas days), so there’s certainly some material to work with. Desiderio led this team in scoring last year, delivering 12.1 points per game, though that was offset by atrocious shooting both from the field (35.2%) and the line (62.8%). Manuel didn’t fare much better, making the exact same percentage from the floor and just a little better from the stripe (68.1%). Still, there’s something to say about stars in their final years, and Manuel may just make his one for the books.
Another promising thing for the Iskos of Diliman is the fact that they have a pretty healthy number of veterans. In the UAAP S79 Presscon earlier this week, most teams noted how they have so many rookies, how they’re so young, or how they’re rebuilding. Well, UP has 12 holdovers, two returning veterans, and an alumnus who returns home after spending three seasons in the neighbor’s wheelhouse. Experience, for whatever it’s worth, will be an edge for UP, though I’m not exactly sure how much good that’ll be, since most of what they’ve experienced is pretty much below par basketball.
What will be tough in S79:
Size will be an issue for UP this season. Harris, Vito, and Prado are their biggest men, and at just around 6’5 each, that’s not saying much. Romero has always been an undersized big, and he remains to be so. Javi Gomez de Liaño has some upside, but his body needs to fill up more, and, well, he’s no classic banger in the middle. Going up against the likes of Ben Mbala, Abu Tratter, Pape Sarr, Alfred Aroga, Prince Orizu, or even Ikeh Chibueze will be hell for the Maroons.
Offense was a big issue for UP last season despite the fact they started red hot and went 2-0. They were dead last in scoring, FG%, points in the paint, 2nd chance points, and assists. In short, they were, for the most part, impotent in terms of putting the ball in the basket. Will that change this season? It all depends on the system coach Bo brings in, but if his past three seasons in Ateneo are any indication, then, well, UP fans are in for some pretty gnarly turbulence.
In conclusion:
Without a doubt, UP is the team of the future.
Okay, sorry, joke’s over. That’s something we’ve all been saying since the 90s. The future (not to mention the Final Four) has just been too out of reach for the Maroons, and this season doesn’t offer many signs that things will be drastically different. If UP can miraculously play ultra-efficient offensive basketball, then they can maybe win more than a handful of games, but even then, they’ll be tremendous underdogs against the top tier squads like DLSU and FEU, and maybe even against dark horses like NU, Ateneo, Adamson, and UE. – By Enzo Flojo
Follow this writer on Twitter: @hoopnut
Enzo Flojo writes opinion pieces for FOX Sports related to basketball