MANILA, Philippines — That the Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers struggled against the Mapua University Cardinals did not exactly come as a surprise to coach Vergel Meneses.
Ahead of the NCAA Season 94 men’s basketball tournament, Meneses already acknowledged that the Heavy Bombers are in a rebuilding phase after making the Final 4 in three of the last four years. His line-up this year features just four holdovers from last season, including the backcourt tandem of Jed Mendoza and MJ dela Virgen.
In their first game of the season against Mapua, JRU looked every bit a team that was still learning to play with each other and in a system. Their offensive sets broke down repeatedly, and their points often came off broken plays or one-on-one forays by Mendoza.
In the end, they lost their season opener on their home floor, 72-60, against the Cardinals.
“Actually, ine-expect ko ‘yan eh,” said Meneses after the game. “We’re a new team, rebuilding.”
Meneses fully expected the Heavy Bombers to have some issues, especially in terms of execution. He pointed out that most of the members of his team are new. In fact, some of them arrived just three weeks ago.
Regardless of their chemistry woes, however, Meneses expects his team to work as hard as they can. They can take a page out of Mapua’s playbook: the Cardinals do not have the most talented of rosters, but they repeatedly out-hustled the Heavy Bombers in the game.
“Ang sabi ko lang sa kanila, mag-hustle lang kayo. 'Yung Mapua, hindi naman parang Lyceum o San Beda pero they keep on working hard,” said Meneses.
“Ang puhunan nitong kabila, effort lang. They trust one another,” he added.
This is something that the Heavy Bombers must learn to do if they hope to earn a measure of success in Season 94.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, magkakamali at magkakamali kayo pero humihinto sila eh. Nawawala, biglang humihinto, iibahin na naman. Siguro hanggat maaga, they should realize that,” said Meneses.
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