Please login using any of the following providers:

Mariano eyes bounce-back, Aroga makes debut as UST clashes with NU - UAAP Season 76

Mariano eyes bounce-back, Aroga makes debut as UST clashes with NU

By Josiah Albelda Posted Jul 13th 2014

University of Santo Tomas makes it UAAP Season 77 debut against National University in a rematch of last year's Final Four.

One is raring to bounce back after a horrid end to his season. One is raring to finally show up after three years of waiting.

Aljon Mariano and Alfred Aroga face off as University of Santo Tomas and National University battle in the 77th UAAP men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Mariano, who played miserably in the Growling Tigers' championship round loss in Season 76, has vowed to recover from that heartbreaking loss.

"Mas gutom ako ngayon. Last opportunity ko na ito," he said, adding that while the memory of the defeat is still in his head, he has moved on and worked on his game throughout the offseason.

"Nag back to zero ako, back to basics," Mariano, who underwent foot surgery after the season, said.

Mariano will be joined by veterans Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer, and the returning Louie Vigil, who is expected by the UST community to deliver on offense after sitting out 2013 due to personal reasons.

On the other hand, Aroga, who was supposed to suit up for the Bulldogs last year but was scrapped at the last minute due to residency issues, is excited to finally set foot on a UAAP court.

"I'm happy and in a way, I got no pressure," he shared. "I just gotta do what I have to do. I'll give my best and try to go 100% every game."

Aroga's hulking frame belies his athleticism and grace, and National U will need every inch of contribution from the Cameroonian to make up for the loss of two-time MVP Ray Parks and import Jean Mbe.

"Jean and Ray, they were the big leaders of our team," he said. "But as I always say, you can never win the championship alone. You need bunches of players."

Also making his debut is new UST head coach Bong Dela Cruz, who replaced Pido Jarencio after two years of serving as an assistant under him.

Fans of the Tigers need not worry about the transition, according to Mariano, as Dela Cruz will still use the system the Espana-based squad utilized in racking up two straight finals appearances.

"Dinagdagan lang ni coach Bong yung kay coach Pido," Mariano said. "Less lang sa isolations and more on ikot ng bola."

The game will air live at 4 p.m. on ABS-CBN Sports+Action channel 23, BALLS HD SkyCable 167,,, TFC Bro and with a same day replay at 10 p.m. on BALLS SkyCable channel 34/ Destiny Cable channel 36.