Allen Liwag is ready to lead Emilio Aguinaldo College to its first Final Four appearance when it competes in Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament that starts on 10 September.
EAC head coach Oliver Bunyi yesterday said Liwag gained a lot of confidence after being considered to be part of Gilas Pilipinas training pool for the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The 6-foot-6 forward was part of the 15-man roster and trained with other elite prospects like Carl Tamayo and Kevin Quiambao for a week before being cut.
Still, the mere fact that he was considered to be part of the best basketball team in the country was already a massive morale-booster.
“Allen gained a lot of confidence in the Gilas pool despite training with them for only a week. He realized the depth of play that we wanted to teach him. That’s why when he came back to practice, he was confident and it raised the morale of the team,” said Bunyi, whose wards finished seventh in Season 97 with a 3-6 win-loss mark.
Aside from Liwag, the Generals will also draw power from Martin Alido, the strength and conditioning mentor of Batang Gilas.
In fact, Alido was at the sidelines when Batang Gilas finished sixth in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship last month.
“Having coach Martin with us is very good for the staff,” Bunyi said.
“The type of training and drills he does with the team is at an international level.”
Bunyi, however, said they lost Marvin Taywan and CJ Cadua to graduation, but they still have the veteran core of Liwag, Ralph Robin, Nat Cosejo and King Gurtiza.
They will also have rookies Mac Balowa, Joshua Tolentino, Ralph Bajon, Jethro Bacud and Ruzzelle Dominguez.
Bunyi said it’s about time for them to make a serious run for the Final Four spot.
“As a team, we are confident we can make it into the Final Four. If we can’t be confident, we are just participating, not competing,” said Bunyi, whose squad will face defending champion Letran College in the opening salvo.
“I think it’s realistic enough for me since I think this is our third year being together. I think we can do it but we won’t let ourselves be arrogant.”