Posted Feb 16th 2014
Can’t Take Adamson for Granted
By Paolo Mariano Posted Jun 20th 2013
In just the fourth game of Adamson University in Season 75, star wingman Alex Nuyles dislocated his right shoulder. He was ruled out of the rest of the season—his final year in the UAAP—after deciding to undergo surgery. With the exit of the high-flying forward, many believed the Soaring Falcons would be hard-pressed to return to the Final Four for the third straight year.
That’s exactly what happened.
Adamson simply didn’t have enough firepower. Veterans Eric Camson and Rodney Brondial tried their best to carry the team but to no avail. The Soaring Falcons only managed three wins in 14 outings, tied for second worst in the league—a huge downgrade after finishing second the previous year.
This Season 76, Camson, who averaged team-highs of 14.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG, won’t be around as well, leaving another gaping hole in Adamson’s roster. That’s why many are once again dismissing the team’s chances.
Many, however, also seem to forget that the San Marcelino-based squad has one of the best minds in Philippine basketball in head coach Leo Austria. If there’s one tactician who can propel an under-the-radar team to greater height, it’s him.
“We have a different character this year. The good thing (without having any stars) is lots of players have the opportunity to step up. I tell my players that this is a make it-or-break-it year,” said Austria.
One guy who is expected to step up is fast-rising threat Jericho Cruz. Now on his second year, the explosive guard will carry most of the scoring load for Adamson. Last season, he put up impressive numbers of 12.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 2.9 APG. With his size, athleticism, and decent outside stroke, he’ll pose match-up problems to opposing guards.
Backstopping Cruz are holdovers Brondial, Ryan Monteclaro, Roider Cabrera, and Jansen Rios. Another key addition is import Ingrid Sewa from Cameroon. His height and muscle will surely be utilized with the Soaring Falcons, who have been lacking in serviceable big men. He’s expected to be the team’s defensive anchor and a force on the glass.
“Now, we have a big man that can protect the shaded lane. When he (Sewa) first arrived here, he had zero skills. Now, he can compete with the best of them,” proudly said Austria, who recently won a championship in the ASEAN Basketball League.
The amiable ringleader is also optimistic about his rookies Axel Iñigo and Dawn Ochea. The former is the star guard of the San Beda Red Cubs, while the former is the reigning Juniors MVP of CESAFI. Even though Austria still isn’t sure about how he’ll insert them into his rotation, he knows his neophytes can contribute if given the chance.
“Our rookies have high basketball I.Q. The only thing that can hinder them is experience. But I’m confident that they can showcase their potential,” said Austria, the 1985 PBA Rookie of the Year.
The Soaring Falcons practice twice a day, including conditioning, something Austria is hell-bent on improving. Defense will be a priority as well, especially after allowing 71.3 PPG last season, second-worst in the league.
With the arrival of the 6-foot-8 Sewa, Adamson is also hoping to pick up its interior game on both ends. Last year, the team finished sixth in rebounds (42.1 RPG) and dead last in blocks (3.3 BPG) and points in the paint (28.1 PPG).
For Austria, the Final Four is an achievable goal. In fact, he said that it will be a free-for-all race, making this year’s tournament a very exciting one. But even though he was his usual diplomatic self in his assessment, he also gave a fair warning to the opponents.
“Our hunger has returned,” said Austria. “They (other teams) can’t take us for granted. If they don’t prepare for us, we’ll beat them.”
UAAP Season 76 Lineup:
Abrigo, Gian Lloyd
Agustin, Michael Angelo
Brondial, John Rodney
Cabigas, Eric Matthew
Cabrera, Roider Ross
Cruz, Jericho Xavier
Iňigo, Alejandrino Antonio
Monteclaro, Ryan Christopher
Ochea, Dawn Hynric