NU head coach Eric Altamirano. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – With star players Bobby Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe no longer suiting up for National University (NU), head coach Eric Altamirano is hoping that all of his players will step up for the Bulldogs in the coming UAAP season.
Mbe played out his last year of eligibility last season, while Parks still had one year left but opted to forego it and try his luck in the NBA.
"We have nine new players, nine rookies and seven holdovers, so it's going to be a new challenge for us," Altamirano said of his team. "Although we don't have the experience like we had last year, but we have a very promising group that is eager to prove themselves in this league."
Altamirano noted that in the previous seasons, their team identity revolved around Parks, who won two MVPs with NU and led the Bulldogs to two Final Four appearances.
"Everything revolved around Ray," Altamirano said. "But now, the way I see it, we have to rely on everybody. It's going to have to be a collective effort, whether on offense or defense."
"You can see that we're going to move the ball a lot. We're really going to go to a lot of people, so I think the identity this year is really to defend and run," he added.
Altamirano would not name a particular player who is expected to star for the Bulldogs this season. Instead, he stressed that they "really have to rely on each individual to help us out."
"Maybe there will be games that one player steps up for us, and the another game, another player steps up," he said.
NU will have foreign player Alfred Aroga this season, after he was abruptly removed from last season's line-up due to eligibility issues. Still, Altamirano warned that Aroga, for all intents and purposes, is a UAAP rookie.
"I wish he has the maturity of Jean Mbe in his fourth year, but unfortunately, he wasn't able to play last year, so ito pa lang talaga ang first year niya," he said.
The Bulldogs do have some veterans that they can rely on, including Gelo Alolino, who established himself as one of the best point guards in the league last season, as well as the promising Troy Rosario.
"They've been there, and they know what to do," Altamirano said of his veteran players. "So we hope that they will lead this team this season."