MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University (FEU) forward Carl Bryan Cruz believes the Tamaraws will be a stronger team in Season 77 of the UAAP despite losing star guards Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia to the PBA.
The Tamaraws famously swept the first round of the Season 76 tournament only to slump in the second round, and made a quiet exit in the Final Four against La Salle.
FEU was already expecting to lose Garcia, who was in his final playing year, but they were surprised when Romeo, the Season 76 MVP, also opted to enter the PBA Draft.
"Hindi namin ine-expect na magpapa-draft siya," Cruz said of Romeo in an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com. "Akala namin, si RR lang ang mawawala sa amin at saka si (Gryann) Mendoza."
"Pero wala naman kaming magagawa," he added.
Even with the loss of Garcia and Romeo, the Tamaraws are still expected to contend in the upcoming season as they feature a veteran squad along with some promising rookies.
"Ine-expect ko na mas maganda 'yung team namin," Cruz said. "Marami na rin nagsabi sa akin na mas maganda raw 'yung takbo ngayon, unlike last year."
"So ayun nga, ine-expect ko na mas malakas kami ngayon, unlike last year, at mas nag-mature 'yung iba sa amin. Lalo na 'yung mga beterano namin, nag-mature din," he added.
Without Garcia and Romeo, veterans like Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, Anthony Hargrove and Russell Escoto are expected to take a bigger role.
Cruz believes that with so many players who can contribute, the Tamaraws will be a more unpredictable team, unlike last season when their offense revolved around their two star guards.
"Kung walang go-to guy, kung sino 'yung pinaka-open na guy sa amin, 'yung may pinaka-madaling tira at easy shot, easy basket, doon ‘yung hahanapin namin," he explained. "Wag kaming mag-rely sa kanino man."
Cruz also stressed that this year, the Tamaraws are a more solid group both off the court and on it, and expects their friendship off-court to translate well to their games.
"(Last year) maraming issue," he admitted. "Lalo na noong magfa-Final Four na kami, kakalabanin namin ang La Salle eh nagkagulo-gulo pa kami sa team namin, so hindi kami as one. Watak-watak kami last year."
"Ngayon, 'yung core ng team namin, mas maganda," he added. "Ngayon, gusto talaga namin na tumibay 'yung samahan namin, on one page kami para maging consistent kami sa games namin."