Pumaren hopes to end UE's Final Four drought

By Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 07 2014 06:05 PM | Updated as of Jul 08 2014 02:05 AM

UE coach Derrick Pumaren. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – University of the East (UE) head coach Derrick Pumaren is hoping to bring the Red Warriors to new heights this season, especially with the school serving as the hosts of UAAP Season 77.

“For sure there are other pressures. We are expected to perform better, especially (since) we are the host school,” Pumaren said.

Pumaren, who won UAAP titles with De La Salle in the 1990s, is hoping that the Red Warriors can finally make it back to the Final Four this season after a four-year absence. UE last made the post-season in Season 72, where they lost to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the Finals.

“Expect the team to play hard every game,” said Pumaren of his squad. “We will take every game quarter by quarter, step by step. We’re not looking forward to making it to the Final Four right away. It’s one game at a time.”

“But we are looking forward to hopefully making it to the next round this time kasi we’ve been out for the last four years,” he added.

To that end, Pumaren will be relying on players like big man Charles Mammie, star guard Roi Sumang and new reinforcement Moustapha Arafat.

Mammie was dominant last season in games where he wasn’t saddled with foul trouble, and the center figures to be an even stronger force now as he has become more mature and disciplined.

Sumang was named to the Mythical Five last season after a strong campaign that saw him lead UE to a 7-7 record. He also gained popularity because of his highlight-reel and clutch plays.

But for this season, Pumaren is expecting more from his star.

“Roi will still be our lead guard, but I want him to be more of a court general this time,” said Pumaren of Sumang. “I’m not gonna take away his offensive skills, but I want him to distribute the ball more, to share the ball more and make the easy passes.”

“If he’ll do that, then it’s gonna be easier for him, rather than taking the whole team on his shoulders and carrying them. I think he’s gonna have a hard time doing that,” he added

The x-factor for UE will likely be Arafat. He and Mammie will never be able to play at the same time due to league rules, but this is a blessing in disguise for the Red Warriors, with Pumaren saying Arafat gives them a completely different look than when they play with Mammie.

“Charles kasi is more of an inside player. Arafat can play inside, outside. He can handle the basketball. He can play the wing, he can also play big. He can play small, he can guard small he can guard big guys,” said Pumaren.

Arafat’s versatility will benefit UE when they want a change of pace.

“He’s very quick, very athletic, so he’ll give us a different look when he comes in,” said Pumaren.

Pumaren, however, warns that it will take some time before the Red Warriors are firing on all cylinders, especially as the team is still adjusting to the system that he installed.

“We will struggle a little bit, I am sure,” he said. “Because ‘yung sistema, hindi pa masyado nila nakukuha. But I’m happy that they’re embracing it, and I’m happy also that they’re getting it.”

“In due time, we’ll get there,” he said. -- with a report from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News