UAAP: NU Bulldogs look to build on preseason success in Season 85

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2022 01:54 PM

John Lloyd Clemente shone in the preseason for the NU Bulldogs. UAAP Media.
John Lloyd Clemente shone in the preseason for the NU Bulldogs. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- After making plenty of noise in the preseason, the National University (NU) Bulldogs are determined to translate their success in the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament. 

The Bulldogs were triumphant in the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup, where they won all 11 of their games, as well as the 2022 Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL). They barely missed a beat despite losing Reyland Torres and Janjan Felicilda to the University of the Philippines, instead adding Kean Baclaan from the University of Santo Tomas.

It was undoubtedly a promising preseason for an NU squad that went 6-8 in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament. They finished in sixth place and missed the Final 4 for the fifth consecutive season.

But their run in FilOil and other preseason tilts have made the Bulldogs a dark horse contender in UAAP Season 85 -- a sentiment immediately downplayed by head coach Jeff Napa.

"First things first, hindi ko masasabing contender kami," Napa said after his Bulldogs defeated Far Eastern University in the Filoil championship game. "Ang contenders pa rin, andiyan -- andiyan 'yung defending champion UP, Ateneo, La Salle."

Still, even Napa can't deny that their strong preseason is a massive confidence-booster for his team, which endured an up-and-down campaign in Season 84. The Bulldogs were 4-3 at the end of the first round and looked poised to contend for a Final 4 spot, but they won just two games the rest of the way.

"Sa amin, [ito ay] big bonus for us. Big boost ng confidence for us na nakuha 'tong FilOil na 'to," said Napa. "At least, 'yung learning process nga ng mga bata, 'yun ang nage-gain namin dito sa preseason camp na 'to."

"At least coming to our season, they are more prepared talaga na alam nila kung ano 'yung papasukin naming giyera. At least, hindi kami magiging banderang kapos," he added.

Baclaan was the centerpiece of their recruitment, but Napa will still have a handful of veterans to rely on in Season 85. John Lloyd Clemente, in particular, is looking to build on an MVP-campaign in the Filoil tournament, and Steve Nash Enriquez appears ready to take on a bigger role.

They also welcomed a new foreign student-athlete in Omar John, who averaged 7.56 points and 6.56 rebounds in nine games in the Filoil tournament. 

"Malaking boost [ito] sa akin," said Clemente of their preseason success. "Binibigay lang namin 'yung best namin every game. Kahit sino kalaban namin, malakas man o mahina, 100% ang game namin."

NU opens its UAAP Season 85 campaign on Sunday, October 2, against the University of the East.

Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.

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