UST Growling Tigers flex recruiting muscle
After falling behind—way behind—in the recruitment wars the past few years that practically made them UAAP doormats, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers are signing up talents by the horde and will have a large pool to choose from when the next basketball wars open in September.
High school standouts Mark Llemit and Jun Melecio were the latest to commit to the new UST program being handled by the returning Pido Jarencio, who told the Inquirer that his squad is just waiting for the arrival of four more Filipinos based abroad in July for him to form his final roster.
“No one has sure slots,” Jarencio said as members of his pool could balloon to as many as 25 when the prospects plane in, three of them being one-and-done talents and a big man whom the program hopes to ride all the way to another title down the road.
Jarencio, though, has refused to name the prospects pending their arrival. He only said that the prospective big man will be coming in fresh from high school and will have five full years of eligibility starting this season.
“We needed to resort to finding talents overseas because most of the players here have committed to the other schools already,” he said. “We’re trying to make up for lost time, obviously. The other schools have beaten us to the draw.”
Santo Tomas’ last title came under Jarencio’s watch in 2006 before he took on the job to handle NorthPort in the Philippine Basketball Association.
He doesn’t regret answering the call for a comeback and is also excited that his eldest son, Jaren, will be by his side as his chief assistant.
“They have welcomed me in a way I was never welcomed before,” Jarencio said of the university leadership. “The atmosphere here is great. And that’s a good start.”
With the way the recruitment is being handled, expectations for the coming season could be high.
But Jarencio was the first one to taper that down by saying that he has not set a target at all, because “that’s just the way I coach.”
“I have never set targets for any team that I have handled,” he explained. “What I want is for the team to continue to improve and the players to continue to improve individually so I can help them with their careers moving forward.
“But it’s also not all about being good on the court, they also have to be good academically.”
And despite the prospects from abroad he is waiting for, Jarencio was quick to point out that the Tigers won’t look like they are a US-based program.
“I will have them play the Filipino kind of basketball when they come. If they can’t do that, they won’t have a slot on my team.
“They have to learn to play the UST way—with a lot of pride and heart.”
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