File photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University basketball opens a new chapter this year with new head coach Aldin Ayo calling the shots.
Ayo is no stranger to success in college hoops. Just in his first year as Letran’s head coach in 2015, he steered the Knights to an NCAA title by beating the 6-peat seeking San Beda Red Lions in the finals.
Ayo, 38, hopes to bring similar success to La Salle, which failed to make the UAAP Final Four last season, just two years removed from winning the league’s championship.
But before even thinking of title aspirations in 2016, both the Green Archers roster and the new head coach need time to get used to each other.
For Ayo, it’s a matter of adjusting to a new routine: different time of practices, the long commute from his home of Cubao to Taft, and cultivating relationships with his new players.
For La Salle, it’s about educating themselves with a system that’s different from the one ran by its last head coach, Juno Sauler, who monitored the bench for 3 seasons.
“Slowly na a-absorb yung systema, pero lahat naman nag a-adjust naman. Bago yung systema na pinapagawa ko, so nag a-adjust yung mga bata,” Ayo said about how practices have been since he took over in December.
(They’re slowly absorbing the system, but everyone’s adjusting. The system I’m implementing is new, so the kids are adjusting.)
“Lahat nag a-adjust kasi bago syempre,” said the head coach. “Different system kasi from last season, tapos ngayon, so magkaiba kami nang systema. So nag a-adjust.”
(Everyone’s adjusting because it’s new, of course. The system now is different from last season. So there’s an adjustment.)
Practices for the Green Archers now take place beginning 5 in the morning and last for 3 hours. After starting the week with mass on Sundays, the team trains from Monday to Friday, and Saturday serves as their rest day.
Ayo, whose practices with Letran used to begin at 12 noon, gets up at 3:30 or 4 in the morning nowadays for the commute from his home in Cubao to Taft.
While the adjustment has been challenging, what’s made it easier is how his new team has accepted him, he says.
“So far okay yung acceptance. Nag a-adjust, and hindi naman to ganon kadali. Lahat naman, lalo nag pag ganito kahirap, kasi yung systema ko mahirap talaga eh, so mag a-adjust lang nang mag a-adjust.”
(So far the acceptance has been okay. They’re adjusting, and it’s not that easy. My system is really hard, so everyone has to keep adjusting.)
Ayo says that the ability of the team’s veterans, Jeron Teng and Thomas Torres - both in their last years of eligibility next UAAP season - to absorb the system the quickest has been helpful.
According to some of the Green Archers, the focus has centered on defense.
“Actually sila yung pinakunang naka-absorb nang systema ko eh. Gusto manalo nang mga nun eh, kahit gaano kahirap,” Ayo said about Torres and Teng, who were both part of the 2013 La Salle championship team. Another one from that squad, Jason Perkins, has yet to indicate if he will come back next season, according to the new head coach.
(Actually they’re the first ones to absorb my system. They want to win, regardless of how difficult it is.)
“He’s doing everything,” Ayo added about Teng, a Mythical First Team selection in the past two years, and the 2013 UAAP Finals MVP.
“Kung last season… puro offense [siya], ito depensa, opensa, he’s leading the team, and Tommy (Torres) also. Actually, buong team. They’ve been working really, really hard, and wala pa, hindi pa na a-absorb, pero we’re getting there.”
(If last season… he was just offensive, now, he’s defensive, offensive, he’s leading the team, and Tommy also. Actually, the entire team. They’ve been working really, really hard, and they haven’t absorbed the system yet, but we’re getting there.)
The struggles of the Green Archers to begin the Ayo era have been apparent. They’re currently participating in a tournament at the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) basketball gym, and have gone 1-3 in 4 games. Their latest loss was to San Beda, and DLSU’s lone win so far has come via default against Mapua.
“Nag a-adjust yung mga bata sa ganon pace,” Ayo explained about the current issues. “Slowly, nag i-improve naman, and hindi naman kami nag mamadali eh, kasi gusto namin ma establish lahat before ano gagawin.”
(The kids are adjusting to the pace. Slowly, they’re improving, and we’re not rushing anyway, because we want to establish everything we need to accomplish.)
Even Ayo has shown some frustration. During his team’s recent overtime loss to UE, the head coach was thrown out of the game during the extra session for arguing with the game referees.
La Salle wound up blowing a double-digit lead, but according to a player in the team, Ayo’s willingness to fight for his guys helped earn their respect.
“Kasi, ako ayaw ko naman na pag matalo ka, basta basta ka lang matatalo, so piga parin,” Ayo said about the incident.
“Although nag ii-start palang, pero syempre, medyo masama yung tawag, natural naman sa laro yun. At the same time, ayaw ko magpatalo nang ganon-ganon lang.”
(I don’t like it that when you lose, you just lose. We’re just starting, but, of course, when the calls are bad, it’s natural to get mad. At the same time, I don’t want to accept losing just like that.)
The head coach, who used “mayhem” as a mantra for his Knights last year, wants the Archers to have a similar fighter’s mentality.
“Ayaw na ayaw ko na matatalo ka lang, tapos tatayo ka na lang. Gusto ko - lahat naman natatalo eh - pero yung parang lumalaban.”
(I don’t like accepting losing just like that. Everyone loses, but I like being a fighter.)
That kind of mindset, along with the new system being implemented, are just some of the aspects La Salle is aiming to develop in anticipation for the upcoming UAAP games in September. – Rappler.com