MANILA, Philippines –The openings weeks of UAAP Season 82 has not been smooth running for the La Salle Green Archers.
Save for an 83-82 squeaker over the winless NU Bulldogs, the new-look La Salle squad has dropped 3 of their first 4 games and plummeted to 7th place in the men's basketball standings with a 1-3 record.
However, team consultant Jermaine Byrd is not sweating his team’s flat start at all.
“We're at 1-3 but that doesn't mean the season is over, we still have a couple more games to go in the first round,” he said after his team absorbed a 55-66 loss against the FEU Tamaraws.
“We just have to use this as motivation. Again, like I said, we know a lot of people are writing this off. We know people didn't give us a chance before the season even started. So the things we just have to work on. We just have to stay together.”
La Salle attracted a lot of attention in the pre-season as they recruited a trio of one-and-done players in Jamie Malonzo, Keyshawn Meeker and James Pado in addition to acquiring the services of Byrd, a former NBA G-League coach.
However, the hastily assembled team is now feeling the side effects as they have yet to establish consistency outside the obvious talent of Malonzo and the veteran leadership of Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio and Season 81 Mythical Five selection Justine Baltazar.
“This is a new ballclub,” Byrd continued. “We got some new guys, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. I'm asking my players not to use that as an excuse. We have enough in that locker room to win. Unfortunately, we're just not winning. But the season is not over, so we just got to keep chipping away. We got to keep fighting. We got to keep believing in each other and it'll turn around.”
Indeed, there is a lot of material to work with within the Archers’ camp. Malonzo has quickly risen up the ranks with averages of 17.33 points and 12 rebounds while Baltazar is not far behind with norms of 15 markers and 12 boards.
Caracut, Melecio and sixth man Encho Serrano have also been reliable scorers and facilitators despite the small sample size. Meeker, Pado and even former NCAA juniors champion Joel Cagulangan, however, have yet to live up to expectations.
Byrd very well knows this, and for now, that’s enough for him.
“All we can do is continue to practice and watch film to continue to help these guys get better as a team,” he said.
“You know, I'm not going to stop working and I know my players. I know they're not going to stop fighting and competing. So we're going to compete, we're going to keep competing and we're going to try to speed this process up as fast as we can.” – Rappler.com