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UE eyes small steps towards greatness

By Paolo Mariano Posted Aug 14th 2013

The rejuvenated University of the East has already surpassed its woeful finish last season in just the first round.

So far, so good—so not yet done.

With a rejuvenated squad spearheaded by a fearless playmaker, the University of the East (UE) has truly regained its footing after back-to-back dismal seasons. In just the first round, the Red Warriors already surpassed their woeful 3-11 record last year.

Carrying a 4-3 slate, UE is in a three-way logjam at second spot with contenders University of Santo Tomas and National University. That alone should make the boys from Recto beam, especially after frustration-filled campaigns in 2011 and 2012.

“At least we’re in the top (half of the standings). For me, coming from last year, we already achieved something with our performance in the first round,” said head coach Boysie Zamar.

But if you think the Red Warriors are already satisfied, you are deeply mistaken.

For all his syrupy statements and poetic proclamations in post-game interviews, Zamar has actually walked the talk. In less than a year since his return to the Red Warriors camp, he has infused a never-back-down attitude to UE. After all, that’s what the team’s moniker implies.

“We don’t let our achievements get into our heads, we let them get into our hearts,” gushed Zamar, who steered UE to consecutive Final Four trips from 2002-2006 before plying his trade in different parts of Asia.

The Red Warriors are one of the most thrilling teams to watch with their up-tempo, rah-rah style. They are the third highest scoring squad after the opening round with 73.7 PPG. Jitterbug guard Roi Sumang leads the crew with 19.0 PPG, second best in the league, with five other guys contributing at least 6.0 PPG each.

With Sumang’s seemingly effortless incursions to the lane and rookie import Charles Mammie’s relentless activity underneath, UE is also one of the most efficient teams in the paint with 33.4 PPG, tied for second with De La Salle University.

The Red Warriors also rule the boards with 48.3 RPG, a huge jump from their second-to-the-last rating last season. Obviously, this is largely due to the 6-foot-8 Mammie, who is the league’s top carom grabber with an eyebrow-raising 17.8 PPG. Five other players, including three backcourt guys, add at least 4.0 RPG each.

What UE needs to do is buckle down on defense, especially after allowing an almost unforgivable 75.7 PPG, second worst in the league and just a tad better than winless University of the Philippines.

Yes, the Red and White are tops in the league in forcing errors with 16.3 per game, but curiously, they also let their opponents score at a high rate and at a 40.1% field goal clip, which somehow goes against conventional wisdom.

But despite their holes, which they readily admit, the Red Warriors are still brimming with optimism.

“The beauty with our team is that we still have a lot to improve. Putting emphasis on winning creates pressure, that’s why we emphasize improvement instead,” said Zamar. “Big leaps start with small steps of faith.”