San Beda's Ola Adeogun. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – The San Beda Red Lions remain the favorites in the upcoming NCAA Season 90 men’s basketball tournament, but the Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers and the Perpetual Help Altas should also be seen as tough contenders.
The Bombers have come up with solid play in the pre-season after making it as far as the quarter-finals of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup last month, while the Altas topped the Fr. Martin Summer Cup by beating UAAP powerhouse University of Santo Tomas in the finals just last week.
Both JRU and Perpetual also notched victories over reigning UAAP champions De La Salle University in the elimination round of the Filoil tournament.
San Beda center Ola Adeogun, whose Lions were the best placed NCAA team in the Filoil tournament after finishing in second place to the Archers, was impressed with the Bombers and the Altas.
"Based on what I saw in the pre-season, I think Jose Rizal and Perpetual Help should be strong this season," said the Nigerian big man.
But JRU coach Vergel Meneses and Perpetual coach Aric del Rosario were quick to downplay their early successes.
“Nothing to celebrate about,” said Meneses.
“Hindi pa nag-sisimula ang laban,” said Del Rosario.
The Bombers will be parading 6-foot-7 Andul Wahab Abdul Razak of Ghana and a core centered on Michael Mabulac, Philip Paniamogan and Jaycee John Asuncion, a transferee from Perpetual Help.
Meneses believes that it will be his reserves who will make the biggest difference, however.
“I need my second team to step up because the starters can’t do it alone,” said the coach.
Meanwhile, the Altas have lost Nigerian Nosa Omorogbe but has kept the core of the same team that made it to the Final Four last year with Justin Alano, Harold Arboleda, Juneric Baloria, Earl Scotty Thompson and Joel Jolangcob.
But opponents are expected to focus on the high-scoring Baloria, who torched La Salle for 41 points when the Altas beat the heavily-favored Archers in the Filoil tournament.
“Mas tumaas ang kumpiyansan niya ngayon dahil sa natutunan niya noong isang taon,” Del Rosario said of Baloria, a native of Lanao del Norte who was discovered in the playing courts of Angeles City, Pampanga.