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Making the Leap: Players to Watch Out for in Season 76

By Paolo Mariano Posted Jun 25th 2013

Arnold Van Opstal of De La Salle University is one player who can have a breakout campaign in Season 76.

Aside from the celebrated stars and the hyped-up rookies, there are several players who are worth observing every time a new UAAP season commences. They are the previously unheralded and under-utilized guys, who are poised to have a breakout year. Last season, Juami Tiongson, Gelo Alolino, and Almond Vosotros personified this type of player, breaking into the limelight and posting career numbers.
So who will make the leap this Season 76? Let’s look at eight guys who are chief candidates.
1. Frank Golla – Ateneo
Season 75: 7.0 MPG, 0.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG
With new tactician Bo Perasol installing a new guard-oriented system in Katipunan, the same one he used to employ in the pros, the backcourt guys will surely see heavy minutes this season. But if there’s one big man who’ll also see an increase in playing time, it’s Golla. Of course, more exposure usually translates to more productivity. The former RP Youth Team member is a terrific rebounder on both ends and has a soft mid-range touch. He has high hoops IQ and he’ll be an integral part of the Blue Eagles' campaign this year with the exit of Greg Slaughter, Justin Chua, and Nico Salva.
2. Jansen Rios – Adamson
Season 75: 5.1 PPG, 43.9% FGs, 2.6 RPG
Rios showed glimpses of potential last year when Adamsons’ top gun Alex Nuyles suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He has a decent outside shot and he isn’t afraid to rough it up with bigger guys in the paint. His size and wingspan also make him a dependable perimeter defender, shadowing the likes of Ray Parks, Terrence Romeo, and Kevin Ferrer. The Letran High product is expected to have an even bigger role in offense this year, with the graduation of Eric Camson. Good thing for him, he has a terrific coach in Leo Austria, who will show him the ropes and the right attitude.

3. Arnold Van Opstal – De La Salle
Season 75: 4.9 PPG, 51.0% FGs, 5.2 RPG
Even during his stint with the Junior Archers, La Salle fans already salivated with the prospects of Van Opstal being, quite literally, the next big thing. But two seasons into his Seniors career, he has yet to really pan out. Season 76 could be the year though. He has shown improvements in the low block, being more comfortable with the ball and knowing when to attack. He’ll be an even bigger monster on the defensive end with his height, mobility and maturity. Don’t be surprised if he leads the league in blocks this year. This time, AVO could finally be the guy fans have long been hoping for.
4. Roger Pogoy – FEU
Season 75: 6.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG
One could argue that Pogoy already had his coming out party last season. But with FEU's roster this year lacking in firepower, the standout from the University of Cebu could see more scoring opportunities and average in double digits. He is a versatile player who can hit from long range, put the ball on the floor, and even post-up against smaller defenders. He could even see minutes playing as an undersized power forward this year. While he may have a hard time against legit 4s, he could pose match-up problems on offense with his agility. He has the skill set, all he needs is the mindset.  
5. Troy Rosario – NU
Season 75: 5.8 PPG, 41.3% FGs, 3.9 RPG
Among all the players in this list, Rosario has the most potential of making the biggest leap. Even though he’s only in his second year, he is no stranger to high-level competition. He used to be the star player of Rizal Technological University before moving to NU and is also a former RP Youth Team member. He has fantastic athleticism and a sweet touch from the outside. If he can improve on his shot selection, he’ll be another headache for the opponents. With already a season of UAAP under his belt, he’ll be even more comfortable this year being a primary offensive threat in the lane.
6. Pong Galanza – UE
Season 75: 13.0 MPG, 3.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG
Galanza who? That’s exactly what most of you might be thinking right now. With the Red Warriors suffering loss after loss last season, only a few of you might have recognized this kid from the University of Manila. In his rookie stint last year, he put up a respectable 10 three-pointers and appeared in 13 of UE’s 14 games. Some plays were even specifically run for him. He also showed some potential defensively. He has the makings of a dead-eye shooter in the and he’ll only get more open looks this time around with Roi Sumang drawing defenders each time he penetrates to the basket.

7. Joseph Marata – UP
Season 75: Residency
Okay, this might be a bit of a cheat choice, but with the Fighting Maroons roster made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, Marata is the prime choice. Also, it's clear that the 6-foot-2 wingman has finally found his true home. Apparently, he was already home to begin with. The former UAAP Juniors MVP with UPIS is back in Diliman after sub-par seasons with La Salle. With the young UP quintet badly in search of a go-to-guy, the prodigal son might just exactly fit the bill. He’s a known scorer and he’s expected to get a bunch of touches. Luckily, he's been playing well as of late. 
8. Ed Daquioag – UST
Season 75: 4.4 MPG, 1.0 PPG, 0.5 RPG   

It’s no secret that the biggest question mark for the Growling Tigers this season is who’ll fill the shoes of Jeric Fortuna at the point guard spot. At this juncture, it looks like it will be Daquioag. Even though he’s primarily known as a defender, he is expected to carry a heavier load this season. His numbers may not immediately skyrocket, but he’s going to play a major part on both ends. He has the size and speed to compete with the other elite guards, all he needs is to gain confidence. Now, if there’s one coach who can motivate his boys to play their heart out, it’s UST's Pido Jarencio.