By NIKOLE JAVIER
University of the East head coach Jack Santiago sees individual awards as fitting recognition for his players in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
Despite missing out on the Final Four race, the Red Warriors had a productive season with a 5-9 record in the standings and including some impressive fightbacks behind rookie Gani Stevens and graduating Luis Villegas’ combined efforts in the homestretch.
“‘Yong two guys ko Luis and Gani, will somehow be part of the special awards and by dong that, kailangan manalo kami doon sa last games namin. I want [to end on] a winning note for this Season 85 wala na akong masabi trinabaho nila tinulangan nila ako,” said Santiago.
In their last two games, UE managed to bring Ateneo and De La Salle to overtime and went on to come out on top of the latter for the second time this season.
With a tight competition even in the individual honors, the sophomore tactician will be happy to have such decorated names in his lineup.
“As a coach syempre, I just want my players to be recognized. Kumabaga ‘yon ‘yong kapalit nung hard work nila even though itong game na to no bearing for us. I just want my boys to shine. I’m so happy talaga kay Luis especially, he stepped up for this game and Gani. It will be additional points for them for the individual awards hopefully. It’s gonna be a long shot for them, but at least nandoon sila sa mga pinagpipilian. Being the head coach and a father to these guys, ako ‘yong pinakamasaya na makita ‘yong mga players na ma-recognize sa Season 85,” added Santiago.
As they strengthen the program, Santiago is not too worried about what the next season might bring so long as their players follow the system.