Pumaren: We have to be ready …

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    INSTEAD of taking it easy, comebacking veteran coach Derrick Pumaren chose to hit the ground running for La Salle when the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic stalled the Green Archers’ build-up for the 83rd UAAP basketball tournament.

    Among the options the league is mulling is to launch its new season, set to be hosted by La Salle, early next year, considering the risks and uncertainties brought upon by the coronavirus crisis despite Metro Manila being placed under the less strict general community quarantine last June 1.

    That’s fine with Pumaren, “I’m good with starting UAAP Season 83 in the first quarter of next year. This is for everybody’s safety,” Pumaren told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

    Pumaren, who took over from Gian Nazario and active consultant Jermaine Byrd at the helm of the Archers last January, said his charges are not taking their feet off the pedal and are diligently staying in shape despite the government-imposed lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.

    “The team has been doing online workout since the first week of March. We do it from Monday to Friday every week,” said Pumaren, who guided La Salle to its first two UAAP titles in 1989 and 1990.

    “We do a lot of different things to prepare the team and be ready in the event we are allowed to practice.”

    Carrying the colors of EcoOil-La Salle in the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup that was suspended indefinitely since March 11, the Archers won their first two matches to gain a share of the lead with Builders Warehouse-University of Santo Tomas and lone club team Marinerong Pilipino.

    According to PBA D-League Deputy Commissioner and operations head Eric Castro, the fate of the season-opening tourney depends on when the NCAA and UAAP will hold their seasons.

    The Taft-based five, which last won the crown in 2016 under then coach Aldin Ayo, wound up with a 7-7 card for fifth last season and failed to reach the Final Four for the second straight year.

    In 2018, under coach Louie Gonzalez, La Salle finished the season with an 8-6 record in the eliminations in a tie with Far Eastern University. The Tamaraws beat the Archers in the playoff for the last Final Four slot.

    Foremost among those expected to lead La Salle’s bid to reclaim lost glory are lanky center Justine Baltazar, guards Aljun Melecio, Encho Serrano, Jordan Bartlett, and Kurt Lojera, forward Tyrus Hill, and 6-foot-11 Senegalese big man Amadou Ndiaye.