MANILA- His exit from De La Salle University will not go as Andrei Caracut had envisioned.
The veteran guard played arguably his poorest game of UAAP Season 82 on Sunday, just when La Salle needed him to be at his best. Caracut was scoreless in over 19 minutes of playing time against University of the Philippines, missing all three of his shots. He also had 5 turnovers, and was a team-worst minus-21.
The Fighting Maroons hacked out a 71-68 win over La Salle, eliminating the Green Archers from the Final 4 race. It is the second straight year that they had missed the playoffs.
Caracut was visibly subdued after the game, and struggled to explain why they fell short against the Fighting Maroons.
"Wala eh, ganoon talaga may natatalo, may nananalo. 'Di ko rin alam nangyari after ng game, parang eto na naman, wala na," he said. "Wala na kami sa Final 4. Sayang, sayang."
Asked to explain his poor performance, Caracut admitted that he is still trying to recover from an illness that he sustained following their game against Ateneo last October 13. While he maintained that it was not an excuse, he did feel the effects of his illness during their past few games.
"Binigay ko naman 'yung best ko kanina," he said. "Siguro, andoon 'yung hina. Siguro hindi lang din ako nakasabay sa game."
"Siguro, 'yung turnovers, siguro 'yun," he added. "Binigay ko naman 'yung best ko."
The Green Archers have one more game left in their schedule -- against Adamson University on Wednesday. But it is a no-bearing contest, as both teams have already been eliminated from the Final 4.
For Caracut, who earned Rookie of the Year honors in Season 78 and was part of La Salle's championship team in Season 79, it is painful to miss out on the semifinals in the last two years of his collegiate career.
"Alam mo 'yun, parang, binigay mo naman 'yung best mo so hindi naman ako nagre-regret," said Caracut, who chose to play for La Salle after a decorated high school career in San Beda.
"Pero 'yun nga, may mga games noong first round na sayang talaga. Nagsisisi kami sa huli. So ayun lang, ganoon talaga," he added.
Looking back on his UAAP career, Caracut was honest.
"Hindi naging madali kasi pabago-bago din ng coaches," he admitted.
When Caracut entered the league, Juno Sauler was calling the shots for La Salle. He quit after Season 78, as the Green Archers also missed the Final 4 that year. Aldin Ayo took over, and for the next two years the Green Archers would take the league by storm. They won the title in Season 79, and made it back to the Finals in Season 80. Caracut's role was limited, but he was still part of a triumphant team.
Ayo left after Season 80, however, and his longtime assistant, Louie Gonzales, took the reigns. Gonzales, too, would be gone after just a year, and La Salle tapped Gian Nazario to serve as head coach while American Jermaine Byrd was the active consultant.
Caracut tried to look for a silver lining amidst the lack of continuity, as he insisted that he learned plenty from all of the coaches that handled La Salle.
"Lahat ng dumating na coaches, may natutunan naman ako," he said. "So, hindi madali eh, lalo na pag-first year ng coach, tapos paiba-iba yung players na kasama mo."
"Hindi naging madali, pero nag-enjoy naman ako sa mga nakasama ko," he added.
"Sobrang dami ko ring natutunan sa mga five coaches at sa mga players na nakasama ko sa five years ko."
With one game left in his UAAP career, Caracut's last coach in La Salle -- Byrd -- will try to send him off as a winner.
"We want to finish it off for our captain, Andrei," said Byrd. "We want to finish it off for our one-and-done players, and we also wanna give some confidence for the guys who will be coming back next year."
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