Will Cameroon import Steve Akomo be the savior for University of Santo Tomas? Growling Tigers’ coach Boy Sablan thinks so.
Sablan feels the 6-foot-8 Akomo is precisely what the doctor ordered for UST as the Growling Tigers plot early for the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tourney next year.
“Wala kaming post (presence), wala kaming threat sa loob. Kaya malaki ang maitutulong nu’n for next year,” said Sablan, immediately setting his sights on a promising future ahead after UST endured its worst showing in over two decades during his initial stint at the helm.
While veterans Louie Vigil, Kent Lao and Fil-Canadian guard Jon Sheriff have played their final year, Sablan still remains upbeat on the potential of the Growling Tigers, who are also expecting the return of wingman Embons Bonleon from a wrist injury and the continuous development of their Young Turks.
“May mga magagawa na ‘yan for next year. Nakalaro na kasi sila,” said Sablan, referring to the likes of Zach Huang, Oliver De Guzman, Jeepy Faundo and Joko Macasaet.
“Ngayon lang sila nabigyan ng playing time. Positive sila na nakita sila ngayon na mayroon silang maibibigay. Kailangan lang mai-develop.”
While he certainly crammed to instill his system in a couple of months when he formally assumed the coaching post last June, Sablan added he’s expecting better results since he and the Growling Tigers will have ample time to prepare for what he considers a big redemption next year.
“Mas matagal na preparation, mas maganda for next year,” he said. “For next year, ready na sila. Naibigay ko na sa kanila kung ano ang dapat gawin. Naipakita na nila kung ano ‘yung kaya nilang ibigay. Sasamahan mo na lang ng konting Steve Akomo. ‘Yun naman kasi ang missing sa amin.”
Guards Marvin Lee and Renzo Subido should also be the key returnees for the Growling Tigers, but Sablan said there’s nobody assured of a spot except Akomo, a transferee from University of Visayas.
“Alam naman ng lahat na makakalaro sa amin si Steve. ‘Yung ibang mga players, kailangan na mag step-up. Maski ‘yung mga nakalaro na ngayon kasi may mga lalaban sa spots nila mula sa Team B,” he said. – Jerome Lagunzad