The past two years have seen a surge in both the interest of the University of the Philippines community on their Men’s Basketball Team, and the desire of the Fighting Maroons themselves to make the UP faithful proud.
With coach Bo Perasol steering the wheel, the Fighting Maroons have slowly — but surely — climbed out of the cellar. From being the bottom of the league three years ago, to finishing sixth last year, and then missing out on a playoff by just a game this season, UP will enter next season with high expectations.
And it was all because of the “rollercoaster” season they experienced this year.
“I think if I would have to describe this season into a phrase, it was rollercoaster ride,” reflected Perasol, who became the first UP coach in a decade to have defeated the other seven UAAP teams in his term, “We had some bad losses, good wins, close losses, nag-aaway kami, pinagalitan ko sila, sumasama yung loob nila.
“It’s just like there was drama for the whole season for us. When we began our off-season we really had our hopes high on getting a chance into the Final Four and here we are. We’re just supposedly a win away, but then again what’s important was we gave ourselves a good chance and another thing is that we only had five wins last season, now it’s going to be an improvement to what we had last season,” the former Fighting Maroon added.
“So no matter what happens, again as I said, I think that we added some character to these gentlemen out here and to my team, which we are going to hopefully bring into the next season.”
When Perasol took over the program back in 2016, he tempered the expectations of the community, always saying that success does not come overnight.
In his first year, he started from the ground. His first order of business was to change the culture of the team and the community by making them believe that something good is about to happen, that they can compete.
Perasol followed it up with proper execution a year later. His vision this year was that the Maroons needed to experience how to play in big games.
Even if they fell short of a Final Four slot, Paul Desiderio, Juan Gomez De Liano, and the Fighting Maroons gave themselves a chance by playing their best game of the season, taking a 106-81 win over the National University Bulldogs in their final outing for the season last Saturday.
“If you wanna grow, you have to undergo these kinds of games, yung mga knockout games, all for the marbles-type of games,” Perasol shared, “Dun mo nage-gain yung confidence mo. Lahat naman ng teams, you have to overcome those high pressure games. E kami, yung simpleng laro lang, pagdating sa end game, bumabagsak kami.
“Kelangan merong pinanghuhugutan, they have to remember something, this experience that will say, ‘Hey, we have done this.’ Katulad niyan, maganda laro ni Paul, or Juan, they have to remember that na seasons from now, alam nilang kaya nila.”
Though coming up short of their goal, that very win against NU is a huge step forward for the program — one that has missed out on the post-season for two decades.
With this, Perasol is confident that the Fighting Maroons will learn to embrace the lofty expectations on them come next year.
“I’m hoping for the good of our own program and for the good also of our college basketball. I know out there na there’s a lot of hungry UP alumni waiting for a win, for a chance to be proud of their team as well. Again as I said, this is going to be a process,” said Perasol.
“I think modesty aside I think we are doing it the right way.”