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UE battles FEU in season opener

By Anthony Divinagracia Posted Jun 29th 2013

The UE Red Warriors collide with the FEU Tamaraws in the opening game of the UAAP Season 76 men's seniors basketball tournament.

Early favorite University of the East (UE) stakes its pre-season billing today as the new-look Warriors meet a rebuilding Far Eastern University (FEU) to kick off hostilities in the 76th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Warriors, picked to go all the way this season alongside National University, battle the Tamaraws in the 2 p.m. opener shortly after the opening ceremonies.

Yet for UE coach Boysie Zamar, carrying a heavyweight’s tag, while flattering, doesn’t guarantee automatic victories especially against the lethal backcourt of former MVP RR Garcia and Rookie of the Year Terrence Romeo.

“The (Fil-Oil tournament) restored the team’s confidence. But we have to show it on the court. The real battle starts in the UAAP. That’s what we’ve prepared for,” said Zamar, who took the coaching reins from former teammate Jerry Codinera midway last season.

Zamar expects chief playmaker Roi Sumang to spearhead the Warriors campaign, noting the leadership qualities and versatility of the Fil-Oil tournament MVP.

Sumang led the Warriors in Season 75 with averages of 18.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. The third-year guard has since fully embraced the main-man role under Zamar’s system not just in terms of piling numbers but also doing the intangibles.

“Hindi lang puro opensa ang batang ‘yan (Sumang). May hustle din. Masipag dumepensa at maasahan ng mga team mates niya,” Zamar said of the 5-foot-7 court general out of Letran, arguably the best point guard in the league today.

But Garcia and Romeo, perhaps the league’s finest backcourt tandem with co-existence issues already sorted out by new FEU mentor Nash Racela, won’t give Sumang and company an easy debut.

“They’re both responding well and know their respective roles more than ever. They are both our leaders and they can complement each other,” Racela said. “Our process of improving things now may be a little slow but we’re getting into the right direction.”

Romeo and Garcia emerged as FEU’s top scorers last year, norming 18.9 and 11.9 points an outing, respectively.

Aside from Sumang, the Warriors will parade a reloaded frontline powered by vastly improved big men Chris Javier, Adrian Santos, Jai Flores, JM Noble, and Sierra Leone import Charles Mammie, who has been an immovable force underneath in the Warriors’ Fil-Oil grind.

Comebacking guard Lord Casajeros and former NCAA juniors MVP Gino Jumao-as are likewise tipped to provide able support for Sumang in the backcourt.

FEU meanwhile will backstop Romeo and Garcia with veterans Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy, Mike Tolomia, and Anthony Hargrove. Racela also looks to involve seven-foot beanpole Christian Sentcheu, Raymar Jose, and Mark Belo more in the flow of things, especially in rebounding to build FEU’s inside game.

The UAAP can be viewed live on Studio 23, BALLS HD 167 and starting at 2 p.m. and BALLS HD 167 with a replay at 8 p.m. on BALLS SkyCable channel 34 or Destiny Cable channel 36.