MANILA, Philippines – When he came into the league, fans expected Mike Silungan to be the "next big thing." A big guard with range all the way out to the three-point line, Silungan was expected to lead the UP Fighting Maroons back to the UAAP's promised land.
Unfortunately for the Fighting Maroons, it did not happen.
Silungan had moments when he looked like one of the UAAP’s top players, but it rarely translated to victories for the state university. In his three years in a UP uniform, the Maroons won a grand total of three games. When Silungan made his debut in Season 73, the Maroons lost all 14 of their games in the elimination round.
"There were a lot of ups and downs," Silungan said when asked to describe his UAAP career on ANC's "Hardball" sports show.
"Playing for them for the last five years, it's been my home. It’s been a lot of ups and downs," he added.
In his first year, Silungan averaged 11.3 points per game, but clearly struggled to adjust to the UAAP competition. He was better in his second year in the league, scoring 15 points per game and leading the Maroons to an upset of the FEU Tamaraws in Season 74.
But in Season 75, Silungan's scoring dropped to 10.5 points per game, and the Maroons won only one game.
Although they lacked a consistent scorer, the Maroons somehow managed to be competitive in nearly every game. They were very rarely blown out in Season 75, but their execution at the end of games always left something to be desired.
"I think we may have had 10 or 11 close games wherein we could have finished it out," Silungan said. "We were there the whole way, but we just fell short."
Silungan called the season "bittersweet," since the victories always seemed to be "right there." For him, Season 75 was even more heartbreaking than Season 73, when they went winless.
"I think this year was more heartbreaking, knowing it was my last year. There were seven others that I’ve been playing with for the past four or five years," he said.
"It was also heartbreaking for the community, seeing eight seniors leave," he added.
Yet Silungan remains hopeful for the Maroons and believe they can make an impact in the UAAP in the near future.
"This year was tough," he said. "But I'm hoping UP bounces back next year."
"We just have to keep playing," Silungan added. "We have to bounce back. We're called the UP Fighting Maroons because we have to fight until the final buzzer."