MANILA, Philippines – University of the East coach Jack Santiago can’t wait to see what his new recruits have to offer when the host team kicks off its campaign against the University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament opener on Saturday in Mall of Asia Arena.
Despite losing the core of the Red Warriors last season, Santiago is excited about his new-look squad, with key additions Devin Fikes and Jack Cruz-Dumont teaming up with holdovers Noy Remogat and Abdul Sawat.
“I would say we are so excited because the players recruited are all already eligible,” Santiago said. “But we can’t just take it easy, because other teams have also recruited players and they are also doing well.”
“All teams have prepared very well, especially in the off-season. Many of our teams went abroad. As hosts this year, we will do our best to give our school and community a good season,” he added.
The Red Warriors said goodbye to brothers Nikko and Kyle Paranada, Gani Stevens and PBA rookie Luis Villegas.
But the UE coach, in his third season, has confidence in his current divisions, which are hungry to rise from a sixth-place finish last year with a 5-9 record.
“I see that my players are hungrier than last year. Hopefully we can have a good season this year,” said Santiago. “We all know we lost a lot of players last season, but we were able to fill that void with new signings.”
“We are now making many changes to maximize our new players. Of course, the bottom line is that we have to play as a team,” he added.
The Red Warriors will be tested against the Growling Tigers, who welcomed back veteran coach Pido Jarencio after a decade, as their school begins their hosting festivities at 12 noon before their match.