MANILA, Philippines – Many believed that the University of Santo Thomas would make a mark in the current UAAP season on the opposition’s calendar – the Tigers’ need for a win was considered a favorite school stop.
So it was quite surprising that UST won back-to-back at the start of the season.
But not to Aldin Ayor.
“There’s a lot of fighting going on in this team,” the former UST coach said of the Tigers’ 79-72 win over Adamson at the Mall of Asia Arena in the Filipino on Saturday evening.
Indeed, Ayo, who has spoken to several UST alumni through Zoom, believes the Tigers have not yet shown their inferiority.
“They are underdogs but they will get better as the season progresses,” he said.
He relied on two things to make it happen: the young corps was part of the system he set up at UST before a non-consultative training camp, and the crowd, which started on Tuesday, was returning to the venue.
“When the crowd comes back, it will give us an edge,” Ayo said. “No one can lose the support of our crowd, our community. When the community is cheering there, the players will really fight to the end. ”
Ayo started an ambitious program in 2018 and reached the final in 2019, where the Tigers were led by an unbeaten Atenio squad. But after a training camp at Sorsogan in the midst of an epidemic lockdown, Ayo was suspended indefinitely by the UAAP. The champion strategist is still hoping he can be reinstated immediately so he can help meet the current team’s potential.
And what is the ceiling for these tigers?
“They may be young but with the right direction, they can compete for the final four slots,” said Ayo, who advises current coach Ginino Manansala whenever he can.
Ayo mentions the likes of Joshua Fontanilla, Paul Manalang, Brian Santos, Ian Herrera and Nick Habanero who could become the center of competition with a bright and exciting future.
“They just need to develop and I hope I get the chance to do that,” he said.
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