by: Anton Onato
Updated: 7/11/2014, 12:09 PM
MANILA – On the first day, the University of the Philippines Men’s Basketball Team (MBT) will strive to rise from the ashes.
The UP MBT is set to make their debut game on Saturday against the University of the East, in time for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 77 opening at the Araneta Coliseum.
Despite a winless season last year, the team is expected to live up to its “Fighting Maroon” moniker and win at least three games this year.
“We’re working on three wins and hopefully win some more,” Rey Madrid, head coach of the Fighting Maroons, said.
Team Captain Moriah Gingerich, point guard Henry Asilum and power forward JR Gallarza are expected to step up and fill in the vacated positions left by Joseph Marata, Julius Wong, Chris Ball and Raul Soyud.
The returning veteran point guard Mikee Reyes, who suffered a right shoulder injury two seasons ago, will do most of the playmaking chores.
Former UAAP Season 71 Juniors Most Valuable Player Mark Juruena, who played for UP from 2009 to 2011 but was absent on the court for the past two seasons, also made his comeback to the Diliman-based squad. The 6’5” center is expected to do most of the rebounding and defense at the back court alongside Andrew Harris.
Two incoming prized rookies are brought in to the system to make the team more intact. Former UPIS standout Diego Dario and La Salle Greenhills star player Gelo Vito added depth to UP’s bench. Dario will play point guard while Vito will play the center.
Key returnee and reigning Rookie of the year Kyles Lao is expected to bring his playing smarts to another level and do most of the outside and three-point shooting.
“We are hungrier to win than before. We are a happier team and this will surely give our opponents a hard time beating us. We’ll do our best to fight and win this season,” Lao said.
Completing the line-up for this season are: Jarreli Lim, Agustini Amar, Jose Carlos Escalambre, Darwish Vince Bederi, Martin Pascual, Nhomer Gonzales and Dave Moralde.