De La Salle Green Archers – Team Overview
Year of entry to the UAAP: 1986
Number of Championships: 8
Last Championship: 2013 (vs. UST)
Last Season’s Record: 6-8 (.429) – DNQ for the Final Four
Head Coach: Aldin Ayo (1st year)
Luis Jose Gonzales
Jeron Alvin Teng
Kib Montalbo (Returning from injury)
It was a rainy night. Classes were already suspended due to heavy monsoon rains and flooding across the metro but it was the usual daily grind for the De La Salle Green Archers who is seeking to repeat as UAAP Basketball Champion since their last in 2013.
Much has been said about the Green Archers from the last couple of years. Ben Mbala who was recruited from South Western University after the Taft-based squad won the championship in 2013, was supposed to debut last year but he was declared ineligible due to violations he committed during his residency. That left the Green Archers playing without a true center last season with the graduation of Norbert Torres and Arnold Van Opstal. It was a case of a dynasty that never was for the Green Archers.
In 2014 who can forget that last second three from Mac Belo that made them packing their way home in the final four against FEU and last year’s come from behind loss dealt to them by the Adamson Soaring Falcons which bid their final four hopes goodbye.
But as the current political cliché goes, change has come to the Archers’ Camp. First, they have a new head coach, last year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion with the Letran Knights, Aldin Ayo and coming in with him are his trusted deputies Louie Gonzales and Glenn Capacio.
Coach Ayo’s system is anchored on pressure defense that forces turnovers and quick baskets. It was that dreaded defense that won him the title for Letran despite being one of the shorter teams in the tournament and relied only on the resilient play of Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal while discovering to upcoming stars Mcjour Luib and Rey Nambatac.
Let’s face it, Ayo’s Letran team was not the best of teams talent wise but it relied on pure team basketball spirit anchored in trusting the system and outworking their opponents. Ayo’s Letran was clearly an underdog making that improbable Cinderella run to win the championship.
But this year, it will be different for Coach Aldin Ayo and his staff coming in for De La Salle. Their line-up is a feast for coaches having a superstar in Jeron Teng, a steady playmaker with an outside shot in Thomas Torres, and a beast inside in the person of Benoit “Ben” Mbala.
Back for the archers will be steady combo guard Kib Montalbo, former mythical team member Jason Perkins who will play in the middle of the tournament due to injury, Big men Abu Tratter and the much-improved Larry Muyang, wingmen Julian Sargent and Prince Rivero and outside bombers Andrei Caracut and Jollo Go.
The feast doesn’t end with the holdovers but more interestingly with the blue-chip recruits as they have arguably the best high school player in Ricci Rivero out of La Salle Green Hills, Aljun Melecio the scoring machine out of De La Salle Santiago Zobel, and two stand-outs from the National University Bullpups program, monster rebounder Mark Dyke and last year’s UAAP Juniors MVP Justine Baltazar.
It is exciting to watch these blue-chippers eased into the college game under the proven system of Coach Ayo. I had the chance to have a small chat with Ricci Rivero and he said that he is honored to don the green and white jersey anew as he continue his quest for a championship with the Green Archers something he did not achieve in high school with the Greenies over at Mandaluyong.
What makes it more special for Ricci is him reuniting with Brother Prince. If rival Ateneo has the Nieto brothers, over at Taft it’s the Rivero brothers making waves.
Lastly, the King Archer seems to have that sense of insurgency when asked about this year’s campaign. He said, “Sir Chris sana po mag champion kasi last year ko na and I want to leave a legacy to the young players when I leave. I want to finish my UAAP career as a champion.”
From what I saw, Jeron is leading by example being one of the first to be in practice and one of the last person to leave practicing his shooting together with Thomas Torres and Ben Mbala. His role has changed over the years, from a budding blue-chip recruit, he had transformed himself to one of the UAAP’s superstars and this year, he is not only a leader for the Archers but a mentor to the young crop of blue-chippers on their roster.
The De La Salle Green Archers’ arsenal is full. From a championship caliber coaching staff who will run a tried and tested system, to the solid roster of veterans and role players down to the high profile crop of rookies, the Green Archers seems to be unstoppable this season barring any injuries to its key players and if Coach Aldin Ayo can get this crew to play like a well-oiled machine, it seems that they will go all the way to the championship. With the full arsenal that they have playing together as one, the only thing that can defeat them are themselves.
Editor’s Note: Jeron Teng was the author’s student in Christian Living Education when he was in 4th Year High School at Xavier School.
The author would also like to thank Coach Louie Gonzales, assistant coach of DLSU and his mentor for the Jr. NBA Philippines Coach of the Year program for making the visit to the practice and the interviews possible.