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Rebuilding never ends in Diliman

By Josiah Albelda Posted Jun 26th 2013

Henry Asilum is among only eight returning players for the University of the Philippines, which is will be hard-pressed to win more than one game this season.

University of the Philippines is rebuilding yet again.

After another season saw the Fighting Maroons languish at the cellar, the Diliman five are retooling, reloading, rebuilding -- whatever you call it -- again.

And coach Ricky Dandan hopes to finally get it right this time, with seven rookies and not a few returnees suiting up for UP this season.

Mikee Reyes, Moriah Gingerich and Martin Pascual all regained slots with the Fighting Maroons and prodigal son Tata Marata, who built his name while playing for the UP Integrated School in the juniors division, will also try to rebuild his stock playing for the Maroon and Green.

In spite of the chunk of freshmen the team is parading this year, Dandan admitted that he will still be leaning on his veterans to deliver the goods.

"All of my eight veterans will get the bulk of the playing time," he said. "Most of them came from the bench in their previous years. Now, they are thrust into the starting lineup."

Marata joins Reyes, Julius Wong and big men Raul Soyud and Cris Ball in what could be UP's first five, with small-but-terrible playmaker Henry Asilum ready to return from a shoulder injury and rookie Kyles Lao raring to prove his worth off the bench.

When thinking of a world featuring names like Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, RR Garcia and the like, you couldn't help but wonder how hapless the Maroons can be when they go up against them.

But Dandan said that the fighting heart of a Maroon will carry them through.

"The fighting is back in the Fighting Maroons," he stressed. "We are the underdogs but we will take every team as a team we want and need to beat."

With UP, where resources come far and few between, Dandan has to make do with what is given to them.

"In UP, we don't have everything," he quipped. "But we have enough."

Not everything has been bad for the Maroons, though. And not everything will be bad for years to come.

After all, getting seven freshmen -- a couple of them highly-touted coming out of high school -- is a good sign that the program is going in the right direction. Add to that the fact that UP has a new gym, a project that began 10 years ago and was finished just this summer.

"In fact, 30 years na yung gym namin. Player pa ako nun," Dandan said. "The new gym is a big boost. It's smaller, but it's more private. Wala na kaming distraction."

Gone are the days when the Maroons would try to dodge the bullet-like spikes of the UP volleyball team, when they would hardly hear Dandan give out instructions because of the blaring noise inside the CHK gym, when they would have to cancel practices because the practice floor gets flooded whenever heavy rains strike.

And for a team that hasn't seen bright days over the past decade or so, that might be enough.


UAAP Season 76 Lineup:

Amar, Agustin Jr.
Asilum, Renzar
Ball, Matthew
Desiderio, Andres Paul
Gallarza, Joseph Rey
Gingerich, Moriah Joel
Harris, Andrew Michael
Lao, Kyles
Ligad, Jason
Marata, Samuel Joseph
Paras, Andre Alonzo
Pascual, Martin Javier
Reyes, Miguel Antonio
Soyud, Raul
Suarez, Janus Kyle
Wong, Julius Paul