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UAAP Season 79 Preview: UP Fighting Maroons

The UP Fighting Maroons’ projected starters for Season 79. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – In Season 78, University of the Philippines (UP) failed to sustain a promising start and instead slumped to another losing season. But with a new coach leading the way, they are more confident than ever heading into the league’s 79th season.

Season 78 record: 3-11

Season 78 summary: The UP Fighting Maroons were the toast of the league when they reeled off back-to-back wins to start Season 78, including a shocker over De La Salle University. There was talk of a potential Final Four run for the Maroons, and it appeared that the team could only get better.

Unfortunately for the Maroons, they would only win once the rest of the way. Eventual finalist University of Santo Tomas (UST) handed them their first loss, which touched off a streak of five straight losses. They opened the second round with a victory over Adamson University, but it marked the last time that they entered the win column.

At the end of the season, the team was overhauled yet again. Renzy Bajar’s stint as head coach lasted only one season, and after a prolonged search, the team eventually named alumnus Bo Perasol as the new mentor of the team.

READ: Meet Ateneo and DLSU’s new courtside reporters for UAAP Season 79

Key losses: Coach Renzy Bajar, JR Gallarza, Mark Juruena

Key returnees: Jet Manuel, Diego Dario, Dave Moralde

Key additions: Kyles Lao, Javi Gomez de Liano, Paolo Romero

Projection: Despite coming off yet another losing season, the UP Fighting Maroons are optimistic heading into Season 79. The presence of Bo Perasol has bolstered the team, as UP players have credited the former Ateneo de Manila University coach with teaching them the “little things” that lead to winning.

Perasol had considerable success in Ateneo, leading the Blue Eagles to back-to-back Final Four appearances. It remains up in the air if he can lead his alma mater to the same heights, however.

There is reason for hope for UP. Manuel’s decision to return for his final playing year gives UP a veteran presence and a solid scorer, while Kyles Lao, a former Rookie of the Year, is back as well after missing last season due to injury. He should be another strong option for offense for the Maroons.

Perhaps the most promising member of UP this year, however, is Javi Gomez de Liano, a standout of their juniors program who will give them a presence inside the paint. With no legitimate big man, UP will count on de Liano, the undersized Andrew Harris, and the returning Paolo Romero to be their options inside the paint.

What they said: “We’re definitely winning more. I’m confident to say that part of our modest goal is still the Final Four. There’s a big possibility that if we do what we need to do, we can end the drought.” – Jet Manuel

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