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Pido Jarencio remains candid despite UST’s injury woes

By Paolo Mariano Posted Aug 30th 2013

UST head coach Pido Jarencio is far from giving up on his injury-stricken squad.

Instead of wins, hospital bills are piling up for the University of Santo Tomas (UST) with all the injuries incurred by the team this year.

Already out for the season are seldom-used guard Edcor Marata and rookie center Jan Macasaet, who both underwent surgeries to repair their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL). It should be extra frustrating for Marata, who, after being demoted to Team B last season, worked his way back to the roster this year only to see his comeback cut short.

Another freshman in Brian So, a product from Pampanga, will also sit out the rest of the season due to a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury. There’s a possibility of it being an ACL as well, although test results are still pending.

Of course, there’s team captain and top gunner Jeric Teng, who is having a nightmare of a graduating season. After averaging 19.0 PPG in their first two games, he suffered a nasty shoulder injury against National University last July 10, forcing him to miss five games. He returned in their second round meeting against the Bulldogs, but hurt his left hamstring at the 4:30 mark of the second quarter and did not return. He sat out their game against Adamson University last Wednesday.

“I still can’t say when he’ll return. He’s listed as day-to-day. A hamstring injury is no joke,” said head coach Pido Jarencio.

The fiery 48-year-old mentor admitted that Teng’s absence has been a major factor in UST’s subpar showing this season after making it to the finals last year.

“When Jeric went out, we lost our leader. Nagkawindang-windang ‘yung team, nawala sa wisyo, nawala ‘yung composure, ‘yung tibay (The team got in disarray, we lost our focus, we lost our composure, our toughness), said Jarencio.

In 2006, his first year on the UST bench, Jarencio also saw his team get bitten by the injury bug. He lost several players in the latter stages of the second round due to various ailments like dengue and food poisoning. Still, he managed to motivate his lesser known wards like Anthony Espiritu and Allan Evangelista, who poured in career-highs of 31 and 30 points, respectively in separate wins. That was the year the Growling Tigers last won the title.

Can he do it again this time? The diagnosis remains to be seen.

“Our situation is hard. We have lots of injuries. It has been a disappointing season,” said Jarencio. “Hopefully, we'll get lucky enough to grab more wins.”

Aside from Teng, two of UST’s main cogs were also hampered by injuries early on. Star forward Aljon Mariano got off to a slow start due to a left ankle sprain he suffered prior to the season. Do-it-all wingman Kevin Ferrer, meanwhile, was confined to the hospital for a couple of days due to a cheek bone injury and was forced to wear a face mask in several outings.

Then in their recent match versus Adamson, Kim Lo and Karim Abdul suffered minor shoulder injuries, although both were able to finish the game and help in the Growling Tigers’ 80-67 victory.

But despite the win, Jarencio questioned his players’ toughness afterwards, albeit jokingly.

Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Ang sasarap ng kinakain niyo, ang hihina niyo! (I told them, ‘you always eat delicious food yet you’re all still weak!)’,” said Jarencio, who played 17 years in the pros. “Ako, arthritis lang problema ko. Kapag tumaas na ang uric acid, ayun, hirap na makalakad (Look at me, I only worry about my arthritis. When my uric acid shoots up, then I have a hard time walking).

Asked whether he was happy beating the Soaring Falcons with his hobbling players, the former UAAP MVP quipped with a smile: “Nanalo nga, lasug-lasog naman ‘yung mga player, giba-giba (Yes, we won, but my players are all banged up, all damaged).  

He saved his best joke for last.

Sana mag-iba ihip ng hangin sa upcoming games namin. Sana magkabulutong lahat ng player ng mga kalaban namin (Hopefully, our fortunes will turn in our upcoming games. Hopefully, every single player of our opponents get affected by chickenpox),” said Jarencio in jest.

The Growling Tigers may not need therapists or doctors after all with Jarencio around. Don’t they say laughter is the best medicine?