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[dropcap letter="A"]s a pre-millennium kid who had an older sibling—then a diehard basketball fan, first, and a true blue (or black-gold-black-white) UAAP follower, second—watching men’s senior basketball games on television was already a preferred pastime during that time. You can blame it on formative years or lack of cable viewing, but my memories of the UAAP circa 1990s were particularly vivid, thanks to the colorful hoops rivalry between two proud institutions: the De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas.
When I said “colorful,” I meant it got pretty ugly at some point. As narrated to me by my sister, I’m sure many of you remember the fan sign wars that began with: “Tuition niyo, baon namin,” to which the other camp hit back, “Kung tuition namin baon niyo, utak niyo baon namin.”
Gone are the days of strong hostility as claimed today by both DLSU and UST, thanks in part to the bromantic Tengs, but as the 2013 UAAP season comes to a close, I feel as if this truce is about to be suspended, at least on the hard court.
Aside from the much-awaited battle between the brothers and the fact that both teams are coming off of a dramatic run to the Finals, you just can’t help but be reminded of their respective equivalents of old.
The physicality and pride of today’s UST is reminiscent of the ‘90s champs, while the sheer hunger of the always competitive DLSU simply can’t help but remind you of their fruitful basketball program from almost two decades ago. The stars from the current rosters can give the ‘90s lineups a run for their money. BUT, they will have to capture a title first to prove just that.
The championship scorecard reads: 3-1, in favor of the España-based squad, but last won by the Taft dwellers. It’s been 14 years since they last met for top place—which team will prevail as their best players, inspired by their legendary ‘90s counterparts, relive the rivalry this Season 76?
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The UST Growling Tigers
Behind the mentoring of Aric del Rosario and an all-star lineup, the Dominican university lorded over the competition for many seasons, leading to a rare 4-peat (1993-1996, the last three against DLSU). Backed by a huge community ever since, their bid this year is going to need the same amount of support to match up better with their much-favored foes:
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The ultimate “King Tiger” of the ‘90s, Espino was a Most Valuable Player-caliber center, who was instrumental in bringing the winning tradition to his university. Just like the quiet Abdul, Espino proved his dominance and will to win by being a monster inside the paint. Abdul’s speed and defensive skills make up for his lack of MVP honors. He still has a few more seasons to go anyway.
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Just how Cantonjos was back in the day, Mariano is a smooth operating power forward with reliable mid-range moves. Though smaller but with better footwork, Mariano’s similarity with the former MVP’s game or how they contribute to the team is quite eerie.
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Like Ferrer, Francisco was heavily recruited after his Tiger Cub stint, being a former Juniors MVP of the league. But despite numerous offers from other universities, Francisco decided to stay with his alma mater with hopes of further extending his winning legacy in the collegiate ranks (thus, a 4-peat). Ferrer’s timely treys in the Final Four should carry over into the final stage to really embody the Francisco role and maybe even more.
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Like Teng today, David was arguably the most popular UST skipper during his days as he would always leave all on the floor, including his emotions. He was the Ra-rah Racela of UST, for lack of a better description—always ready to fire up the crowd with his hustle. Present day “King Tiger” Jeric Teng takes over this position with some extras in the scoring and leadership departments. Whatever the destiny of his team holds is completely up to him now.
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The DLSU Green Archers
(With apologies to Coach Sauler and his statement: “La Salle is La Salle.”)
With the exception of Mark Telan, all alumni were part of the 1999 finish—the year the Archers successfully defended the crown and broke the bridesmaids curse versus the Tigers once and for all. They would go on to orchestrate their own version of a 4-peat (that ended in 2001) and simultaneously begin their basketball rivalry with Ateneo.
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Torres is this era’s Telan, though he hasn’t quite gotten enough playing time this season, but it’s never too late to use Torres’ potential to control the scoring underneath. He is a force to be reckoned with but he needs fully to realize it first. Then a MVP award (or two) is not far off, just as how Telan concluded his college career.
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Despite being an undersized version, Vosotros playing the two-position with lethal outside shooting is very reminiscent of Ritualo’s playing days with the Archers. This should bode well for the green-and-white as Ritualo was able to help the school score four straight trophies in five years, thanks to his streak shooting from beyond the arc. “Voso-tres” with his innate takeover tendencies should be poised enough to catch up with his predecessor.
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If UE had Ateneo’s Gec Chia, in some ways, UST had DLSU’s Dino Aldeguer. Although he didn’t necessarily make a crucial game-winning shot, Aldeguer was responsible for collectively breaking the hearts their adversaries when he sent their final 1999 clash with the Tigers into overtime, eventually resulting to the Archers’ first and only championship over their rival so far. Fast-forward to 2013: Revilla’s quarterbacking duties together with his heroics as of late? He should be a marked man in the Finals if things go down the wire.
Watch Aldeguer’s pivotal trey here.
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Before the rise of the DLSU guards and wingmen in the Franz Pumaren era, two-time MVP Allado was the famous La Salle stalwart that really demonstrated the “King Archer” label using his athleticism and personality, highlighted by great one-on-one plays inside and around the perimeter. Although playing a much smaller position, Jeron Teng is evocative of Allado’s winning ways and confidence, thus, a likely successful reign won’t come as a surprise anymore.