Bonbon Batiller ready to embrace lead role for UE in UAAP Season 79

University of the East is considered by many as the darkhorse in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament. And sophomore guard Bonbon Batiller is one of the main reasons for that.

The 5-foot-11 Batiller is hoping he can handle the expected pressure from their rivals as the Red Warriors set out for another title campaign starting against the National U Bulldogs, one of the top title contenders, on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The promising General Santos City native emerged as one of the bright spots for UE last year, averaging a team-high 11.36 markers, on top of 3.36 rebounds, 2.55 assists and 2.27 steals—another team-best—in 11 matches.

The Red Warriors, however, finished sixth overall with a 6-8 mark, missing the Final Four trip for the sixth straight year.

With the Red Warriors primed to make a strong run this season, Batiller knows he’ll be tops on the defensive plans of their rivals and he hopes he can rise to the challenge to the delight of third-year mentor Derrick Pumaren.

“Sinasabi nga po sa akin ni Manong (Pumaren) na dapat kayanin ko ‘yung pressure kasi kasama na ‘yun sa pagiging basketball player,” said Batiller in a recent interview with FOX Sports. “Alam ko po hindi magiging madali pero kailangan kong gawin.”

Batiller also believes UE will come in more prepared and more complete in terms of firepower as Pumaren boosted his already solid crew with top recruits Alvin Pasaol and 6-foot-7 center Rey Mark Acuno while giving them enough time to jell well together.

“Mas malakas kami ngayong season kasi mas maaga sinabi ni Manong kung sino ‘yung kasama sa 16-man lineup,” he said.

“Unlike last year na two weeks before UAAP lang sinabi ni Manong tapos nawala pa si Dan Alberto na hindi pala pwede maglaro. Ngayon taon, two months before sinabi na ni Manong (‘yung mga kasama sa lineup) kaya okay na okay,” he added.

While he’s also confident about their Final Four chances, Batiller said it’s up to him and the Red Warriors how they’ll be able to start strong.

“Sa first round pa lang, bigay todo na agad,” he stressed. “Unlike last year, bumawi lang kami sa second round pero kinapos pa rin kami. Ngayon dapat bigay na agad namin ‘yung magagawa namin lalo sa first game. Gusto ko talaga (against NU) kasi napaka-importante sa amin na magsimula ng maganda sa season.” Jerome Lagunzad

Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports

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