By Neal Tieng
Fresh from a very volatile off-season, the Green Archers jump into action against the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles at on Sunday, September 8, 2019, 4pm at the Araneta Coliseum.
Our team is coming off a complete overhaul, and will be running a new system, so there’s really not much to go on as far as expectations are concerned. The only sure thing is that the green-and-white are underdogs when all arrows are aimed high and the Archers go to battle against bitter rival Ateneo Blue Eagles.
With all the odds stacked against La Salle, can we finally win after losing two games last season? Can our arrows be straight and strong enough to clip the flight of the Blue Eagles?
One thing going for La Salle is that the team will be led by a new coach and a bunch of rookies plus three Fil-ams. This new mix translates into an unknown team that few have seen play as a whole unit outside of practice. Keyshawn Evans, Jamie Orme and James Laput are set to play the first game of their one-and-done season and here is what we know so far.
James Laput is a 6’9 mobile big man who finished his college degree at Young Harris College, a Division II school in the US NCAA. He played 14 games last season starting in 4 and averaged 2.2 points per game and grabbed 2.7 rebounds. Laput’s agility and ability to put the ball on the floor with his back to the basket will be a great plus for the Archers who always wanted support for Justin Baltazar.
Keyshawn Evans, on the other hand, is a combo guard recruited to provide backcourt stability when Captain Andrei Caracut or Aljun Melecio take a breather. A graduate of Illinois State, Evans tallied 8.5 points per game and 2.3 assists and 1.8 rebounds throughout his whole collegiate career.
But if there is one that is creating some noise during the off-season is Jaime Orme, a 6’7 small forward with a lightning-quick first step. Orme played his last season with the Portland State University, a Division 1 school, and averaged 8.1 points per game. He is accurate from the long range and is a good at finishing in traffic.
THE UNKNOWN SYSTEM
We cringed last year when we see uncoordinated defensive plays, with too much reliance on isolation plays. With head coach and Gian Nazario and active consultant Jermaine Byrd taking control of La Salle basketball, will these hiccups be a thing of the past?
THE ELITE GREEN GUARDS
With streak scorer Aljun Melecio, Andrei Caracut, Encho Serrano, Ty Hill and rookie Joel Cagulangan, active consultant Byrd proclaimed the Green Archers’ guard rotation as oneof the best in the country that could stack up with any team. There isn’t a doubt that the guards can score, but can they create the plays that would be essential in bringing down Ateneo?
“That is what they have to understand” said Byrd.
SHOOTING DOWN THE EAGLES
The 2019 version of the Blue Eagles is deadlier than 2018. The team practically have blended into one very cohesive defensive unit, and Ateneo’s first game against Adamson, a team with plenty of offensive options, was exhibit A.
Armed with a disciplined full-court press and tight defensive rotation that does not gamble much but forces plenty of turnovers, the Blue Eagles silenced Adamson in the first half and turned it into a grind-it-out, low scoring game, a scheme that usually favors Ateneo.
But there is always a weak spot.
- KEEPING KOUAME BENCHED
Ateneo’s interior defense is vulnerable when import Ange Kouame hits the bench. With no athletic beanpoles protecting the rim, the Falcons of Adamson were able to swoop inside and cut the double-digit. But when Kouame was quickly sent back to avert the crisis, the lead went back up as Adamson were once again forced to shoot from the distance.
Attacking Ateneo’s interior will be crucial in the first quarter, and if Justin Baltazar, Brandon Bates or James Laput can draw early fouls from Kouame, the Archers should seize the opportunity to create some space early between them and the Blue Eagles.
- CLOG THOSE LANES AND PATROL THE PERIMETER
Spot-up 3s and transition baskets were the best offensive weapons of the Blue Eagles in their first match. Ateneo swings the ball from left to right in a zap that creates a load of open looks for everyone. And with a line-up that can drain open triples, the blues would be very hard to stop if they execute well.
If the Green Archers can control their defense, keep themselves disciplined and take less gambles defensively, La Salle should be in the thick of the fight at game’s end.
- DELIBERATE OFFENSE
Bad shots and poor offensive executions will almost lead to a transition basket for most teams. But against a team that rarely makes mistakes, Ateneo will devour La Salle if we take erratic shots. Patience on the offensive end will be crucial in getting those high percentage looks as well as allow the defense to set-up and take away those easy fastbreak points.
- QUICK BALL MOVEMENT
Ateneo will challenge the perimeter shooters of La Salle because they can. As the Eagles hound the shooters when they stretch their defense, they know that Kouame will be there to man the shaded lane. This is why quick ball movement will be essential in cracking the Ateneo defense. Drop passes and quick kick-out treys will create high percentage looks for our shooters and bigs.
As the experts said, don’t sleep on La Salle as the Green Archers are expected to surprise a lot of teams this Season 82.
And it all begins on rivalry Sunday, the very first game of the season. There’s no better way to start!
ANIMO LA SALLE!!!