University of Santo Tomas (UST) is in a UAAP Season 86 start no one expected, as the Growling Tigers have gone 0-4 in the aftermath of all the preseason frenzy surrounding Pido Jarencio’s return to the bench and the team’s massive recruitment.
“My players are playing their hearts out every time, and I am very proud of them,” Jarencio told the Inquirer over the phone on Thursday after practice as the Tigers gird up for a mammoth stretch in the elimination round with matches against league leader University of the Philippines (UP) and defending champion Ateneo.
“There’s just one piece missing, and then we’ll be fine.”
That piece, Jarencio said, is a formidable man in the middle that can spread confidence all over the team. A reliable man like Adama Faye.
Faye, though, had two horrific falls in the lead up to the season, one in March and another in South Korea where Jarencio said he saw a “monster of a player in the shaded lane.”
With the lower back injury, Faye was only able to see action in eight minutes and 32 seconds against University of the East (UE) and logged just a free throw and three rebounds. Against La Salle, he couldn’t contribute anything in two minutes and 59 seconds.
The charismatic coach is praying that last season’s top rebounder gets back to the pink of health so that they can entertain thoughts of making the Final Four—like they did before the opening.
“We will wait for him,” Jarencio said as he explained how someone like Faye can make things easier for everyone else on both ends.
“You have confidence whenever you take your shots,” he said, recalling how the likes of old UST center Arnold Espino, Rabbi Tomacruz and Raymund Fran helped him become one of the most prolific offensive players the UAAP has ever seen.
“You know someone will be there to clean up after you,” he said. “On defense, a player like that can come to your rescue if you lose your defensive assignment.
“In a nutshell, a player like that makes things easier for the entire team.”
Meanwhile, the UAAP suspended three of its officials that worked the Ateneo-UE game for three weeks and struck them from refereeing in the Final Four and Finals.
Commissioner Xavier Nunag made the announcement but did not disclose the names of the referees, a trio that also worked the UP-FEU and La Salle-Adamson games where there were huge discrepancies in free throws awarded.
The Blue Eagles were awarded 34 free throws, while the Red Warriors got four and made just one.
“We take the responsibility of providing competent and professional referees to the league very seriously, and it is essential that all officials maintain the highest level of integrity and accuracy. The suspension is intended to give the referees the opportunity to reflect on their actions and to improve their performance,” Nunag said in a statement.
The league is now looking for replacements for the three officials.
Santo Tomas takes on the Maroons, the Season 84 champions, on Saturday where they will face Malick Diouf and a formidable frontline in an effort to arrest their slide, before clashing with the Blue Eagles and Joe Obasa, Kai Ballungay and Co. on Wednesday.
No one will hear a never-say-die player like Jarencio throw in the towel even when facing literally tall odds.
“All I can say is that we will give it more than our 100%,” he said. “We owe it to the Thomasian community who have been with us.”
All-out every game, there’s still no denying that Jarencio and his Tigers are playing another game at the moment—the waiting kind.