Roi Sumang watched the UE-NU game from the bench. Photo by Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- Roi Sumang may be University of the East's (UE) star player but he is not above the law, coach Derrick Pumaren declared Sunday after benching his point guard in their crucial game against National University.
It came as a surprise to fans that Sumang did not start against the Bulldogs, and courtside reporter Yvette Din later said the point guard was benched as a disciplinary action.
UE still won the game, 64-55, to stay in the hunt for a Final Four spot, but Sumang's absence loomed large over the contest.
Pumaren later revealed to reporters that Sumang missed their practice on Saturday morning after leaving the UE campus Friday night -- and this came after he and the rest of the Red Warriors affirmed their commitment to work their hardest in a last push for the semi-finals.
"The team had a meeting last Thursday (with UE management), and they gave the commitment that they will go all out, they will give their best in an all-out effort to stay alive," said Pumaren.
"Roi was the one who was very vocal, and he was taking the lead during the meeting. But I don't know what happened. He did not sleep there in the quarters last Friday, he left around 7, 7:30 (p.m.), and then he arrived back to the quarters at around 9:00 a.m.," he added.
The Red Warriors practice started around 9 a.m., but instead of going to the gym and offering an explanation, Sumang stayed inside the quarters.
"So I didn't hear anything from Roi. So there is no reason for him to play tonight," said Pumaren. "They gave all their commitment, and he's a big part of this team. He cannot do that."
"I think it's disrespectful to the school, to the management, to the team and to me as a coach," he added. "He is a player, yes, I know he is Roi Sumang, but he is not above the law."
Meanwhile, UE center Charles Mammie said Sumang had the flu and was confined. "Roi wasn't fit to play today," he said.
Pumaren said Sumang only texted him at 11:16 p.m. on Saturday to say that he had a headache. The coach added that he has yet to talk to Sumang, as he does not want to lose his concentration with such a crucial game to play.
"I don't want to have that 'init ng ulo,'" he said. "We'll sit down and figure out what happens."
There is still no clear explanation as to Sumang's actions, and it is still unclear if he will again be sanctioned for UE's game against Far Eastern University next Sunday.
"I still have to sit down with UE management about what to do regarding that," Pumaren said of Sumang.
Sumang declined to speak with reporters after the game. "Hindi ako naglaro, paano ako magsasalita?" he said on his way out of the Coliseum.
Meanwhile, Pumaren heaped praise on his players who stepped up even with Sumang out.
"The beauty of basketball is it's a team sport. It's not one guy, it's not two guys. It's a team. It takes a whole game to win a ballgame. That's what we showed tonight - UE is not a one man team. It's a basketball team, and there is no 'i' in team," Pumaren said.