Maroons now a target destination for young cagers

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    UNIVERSITY of the Philippines is now a prime destination for prized recruits over the past few years.
    The Fighting Maroons have become a legitimate contender in the UAAP wars the last two years, prompting some blue-chip players to throw their lot with the Katipunan-based squad.
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    “That’s one of the advantages that we have as a result of the success that we had in the past few years, na nagiging hindi ka na last option,” said UP coach Bo Perasol during the Hoop Coaches International coaching webinar streamed on YouTube.
    “Naging first option ka na ng mga players ngayon from other teams.”
    The Maroons advanced to the Final Four in the last two seasons and wound up as bridesmaid to perennial powerhouse Ateneo in 2018.
    The turnaround for the league’s erstwhile cellar-dwellers was brought  about, chiefly, by the massive support from their alumni led by NowheretogobutUP Foundation.
    “That’s one of the major changes that our program is enjoying right now, that we became a destination for players who for years before, wouldn’t even think about going to UP,” noted Perasol, who took over the program in 2016.
    Sure to bolster UP’s bid to ascend to the throne it once occupied in 1986 are former NCAA Juniors MVP Joel Cagulangan, who suited up for a year at La Salle, and 6-foot-11 Senegalese center Maodo Malick Diouf, who played for Centro Escolar University, in UAAP Season 84.
    They would be joining a UP squad that already has center Bright Akhuetie, forward Kobe Paras, guard Ricci Rivero, and playmaker Jun Manzo.
    While seemingly getting the upper hand in recruitment Perasol admitted some concerns.
    “I’ll be going out on a limb if I say this.  But, yes, it’s really going out of hand. And I’m part of that also. Alam ko naman,” said Perasol.
    Schools, irregardless of their financial capabilities, should be given the chance to recruit marquee players, according to Perasol. “I’m looking forward na dapat hindi lang iyong mga well-funded teams ang magkaroon ng pagkakataon sa pag-recruit,” he said.
    “Importanteng magkaroon ng balance na everybody could compete in terms of recruitment, in terms of playing. That’s how I think basketball will be better in our country.”

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