WHO goes to the battle unprepared? Not these Red Warriors.
Although holed up after the deadly COVID-19 pandemic broke out last March, University of the East coach Jack Santiago said his charges are in top condition and raring to return to the gym.
“The team is doing great. We’ve been on virtual training since the start of quarantine and the players right now, I would say, are in good shape,” Santiago told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“We’re very happy with the IATF’s decision to come back to training especially because it’s been almost seven months without proper training and with the addition of newly recruited members of our team, we are definitely excited,” he added.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases greenlighted the collegiate league teams’ return to training last Sept. 7, pending the proper health and safety guidelines being crafted by the Commission on Higher Education and expected to be out in two to three weeks from the time the decision was announced.
While waiting, Santiago said the Warriors can’t be too careful with the lingering health risks and uncertainties posed by the lethal pulmonary disease.
“So, while awaiting guidelines from the CHED, our team’s also preparing for our return to face-to-face practice. Of course, our number one priority is still the safety of the team so whatever the guidelines, we will abide, and we are taking it upon ourselves to make sure that we take precautionary measures to keep our players healthy,” he said.
“Overall, we are looking forward to what’s going to happen and we’re very excited about this recent development.”
The UAAP is eyeing to launch its 83rd season, set to be hosted by La Salle, early next year.
Santiago, who took over at the helm of UE from the late Bong Tan and active consultant Lawrence Chongson last January, has his work cut out for him.
The Recto-based five wound up with a 4-10 record in the last UAAP cage wars for seventh and is bidding to end an 11-year Final Four drought.
The Warriors lost playmaker Rey Suerte, who was selected in the special Gilas draft last December, and guards Jed Mendoza and Philip Manalang due to graduation.
Six-foot-9 Senegalese center Alex Diakhite, forward Neil Tolentino, and guard Harvey Pagsanjan are expected to return and lead UE’s charge.
The Warriors will also parade blue-chip recruits in former Mapua High School standout Clint Escamis, former Centro Escolar University gunner Pierce Chan, former San Beda Red Cubs skipper Josiah Alcantara, Fil-Am playmaker Kyle Paranada, Fil-Am wingman Brian Enriquez, and former St. Clare Orin Catacutan, who will serve the league-required one-year residency.
UE last won a title in 1985 behind the likes of pro league greats Allan Caidic and Jerry Codiñera.