La Salle Greenhills standouts Luis Pablo and Seven Gagate, who recently suffered heartbreak when the Greenies lost the NCAA Season 98 juniors title to the Letran Squires, are determined to help their new team overcome similar heartbreak in UAAP Season 86.
Pablo, the 6’7 NCAA juniors MVP, and Gagate, a 6’8 Gilas Youth product, were formally introduced to the media on Tuesday as the newest members of the UP Fighting Maroons, who lost the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball crown to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in December.
“Mas determinado kami,” Pablo said. “Sobrang gutom kaming manalo. Ang dami namnin nakitang weaknesses nung finals. Sobrang ganado kaming mag-improve at manalo this coming season.”
“Iyong talo namin, doon talaga namin nakita kung anong i-work on namin,” Gagate added. The Greenies were swept by the Squires, with the title-clinching Game 2 ending in a 77-61 rout.
UP coach Goldwin Monteverde said the two would be a big boost for the Fighting Maroons, especially since they lost Carl Tamayo and Zavier Lucero.
“Nakita naman natin ang kakayahan nila,” Monteverde said. “Hindi sila iyong big na play inside lang. They can play inside and outside, they can dribble the ball. Kung isipin natin, sakto din lang kasi Carl and Zavier are out for the season. Pagpasok nila will be a perfect fit for our team.”
Both Pablo and Gagate said they chose to go to UP both for the education and the chance to play for Monteverde.
“Sobrang tiwala ako sa program ni Coach Gold at sa program ng UP,” Pablo said. “Kung ano ang ipapagawa sa akin ng coaching staff, gagawin ko ng 100%. Ang goal ko is kahit first year pa lang namin gusto na namin mapanalo ang championship.”
“Dati pa kaming magkakilala,” Gagate said of Monteverde. “And sa school mismo, UP, gusto ko din mag-aral dito.”
Monteverde has a previous connection with Gagate, having coached his elder brother in high school at Chiang Kai Shek.
“Actually si Seven at that time, puede natin sabihin na batang bata pa even sa basketball. Ang brother niya si Shannon 6’3. Ang sister niya was 5’11. Ngayon siya na ang pinakamatangkad sa kanilang magkakapatid at 6’8.”
Pablo played for Gilas Youth in last year’s FIBA U18 Asian Championship, where he averaged 6.5 rebounds.
“Si Luis, nakita naman natin sa Batang Gilas na somebody na may height, and with his height ang ball-handling niya maganda,” Monteverde noted. “And he’s very aggressive off the boards.”
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Another LSGH recruit, Josh Coronel, will sit out Season 86 to recover from a knee injury. State U’s other towering freshman, 6’8 Fil-Am Sean Alter of Albuquerque, played in the recent SM-NBTC tournament where his team Fil-Nation Select finished second. He was set to leave for the United States on Tuesday and will be back in May.
“Alter is a very competitive player,” Monteverde said of the New Mexico native whom he plans to use as chief reliever for Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf. “Watching him play, he’s really gonna go for the ball. Hindi naman tayo puede sa isang team na panay scorer lang. We need people who will really take that role and put it to another level. He has five years to play. Malaki pa ang improvement niya.”
Another prized recruit, 6’6 Chicco Briones, has been in town since early this year.
“Chicco is a big guard who can bring down the ball,” Monteverde said of the son of former PBA player Lowell. “Marami tayong advantage na puedeng magamit from him. And ang maganda kay Chicco, whatever position, kung saan mo siya kailangan, he can fill a spot easily. He has the smarts and talent to play that way.”
UP program director Bo Perasol said they had been targeting the two for the better part of the year in line with the direction of men’s basketball program.
“Mahigit isang taon na namin pinaplano ito,” Peraosl said. “Hindi siya pangmadaliang desisyon. Alam nila iyan kung kailan sila unang kinausap, inimbita. Hindi sila ngayon lang kinausap.”
Aside from Diouf, other holdovers are Terrence Fortea, JD Cagulangan, Harold Alarcon, Gerry Abadiano, Sean Torculas, Ashon Andrews, Bismark Lina and Anton Eusebio. Expected to be back after sitting out Season 85 with a knee injury is CJ Cansino.