A Mixed Bag – Five Key Takeaways from La Salle’s First Round


by Neal Tieng

A mixed bag.

These three words summed up La Salle’s first round as the Green Archers finished the opening round with a 5-2 slate, which was good enough for solo third behind defending champions Ateneo and second running UP.

La Salle barely lost to UP but also managed to barely squeak past Adamson, with both games decided in the dying seconds, and both games could have gone either way.

And on games decided way before the final buzzer, the Green Archers bowed to Ateneo but convincingly won over UE, UST, FEU and NU.

So, the question remains after the first round, ARE WE GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE A TITLE RUN?

Let us take a look at’s KEYS TAKEWAYS for the first round

The Archers are an Elite Defensive Team

Ranking number one in the fewest points allowed, La Salle limited all seven teams to a league-leading average of 63.57 points per game.  The quick feet of the green on-ball defenders have haunted all perimeter shooters that led La Salle to also lead the league defensively in the fewest perimeter points allowing only 26.43 points per game.   Close-outs inside the paint was not bad either by finishing a league #3 in fewest points allowed near the basket.

By reading the remaining defensive stats such as leading the league in fewest free throws allowed with a per game average of 16.71, and second in the league in forcing turnovers at 18.96 per game, you would think the Green Archers might be lording the league by now.

Coach Derrick Pumaren’s signature press, like his fashion, has not gone out of style.


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The Archers are Terrible Offensively

Defense is easy to coordinate, and offense requires takes time to jell.  And as our players took tons of time off and was assembled just in time for the abrupt start of the season, the Green Archers is a squad that does not know each other that well yet.

“di pa nagkakaamuyan” as one of the Reknet titoS would put it.

And to think that their individual unique strengths had to fit into a Derrick Pumaren system that moves methodically, being beautifully in sync was not at all evident in the first round.

In our two losses and close games, the Green Archers look at times to be searching for cohesion and offensive rhythm.  And when the going gets tough, each Archer would try to use their individual skills to score off a broken play.

And our stats say it all.

  • Last place in points scored (65.29 total points per game)
  • Dead last in two-point field goal percentage (39.64%)
  • 6th in total field goal percentage (36.67%)
  • 6th in perimeter points (25.71 points per game)
  • 7th in total point contribution from the bench (26 points per game)

In several interviews, Coach Pumaren would complain about the lack of offense and not being able to move cohesively.   Relying on individual talent to create their own shots became the rule than the exception.

Not a good sign for a team with ambitions to contend.


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Bright Nwankwo – Still a Work in Progress

Bright Nwankwo’s 7’2 wingspan has helped La Salle defensively, but our foreign student athlete is not exactly a replica of Ben Mbala, especifically on the offensive end.  Still a work-in-progress offensively, the young 6’9 Nigerian recruit only tallied 2.2 points 5.86 rebounds in almost just a little under 15 minutes per game.

Instead of being our leading low-post scoring option and take some defensive pressure off Balti Baltazar, Bright Nwankwo’s lack of a midrange game and reliable inside moves has hampered La Salle’s ability to space the floor, and has allowed the opponents to either sag on Baltazar or extend to the perimeter.


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The Cohesiveness of the DLSU Guards

Evan Nelle and Mark Nonoy are two names synonymous with being the league’s top guard.  Nelle can drill it from the parking lot and can outwit you with a hundred moves while Nonoy can zap from court-to-court in lightning speed.

Schonny Winston has been used to dribble-drive ways and kill you with either a pull up jumper or a sleek lay-up.

However, all three guards are volume shooters, all need the ball in their hands but carry the load offensively.

Playing together becomes a different story.   Again, playing effectively within a Derrick Pumaren offensive system seems to exist only in another multiverse for them as of this juncture.

The Nelle – Nonoy – Winston rotation has slowly become a your-turn-my-turn routine.  But when one catches fire, it will hide all the on-court chemistry problems.


Promising Rookies Are Sensational

We can start the roll with Michael Phillips and Ben Phillips, two reliable forwards from the bench.  Michael’s crowd-rousing ability to jump out of the gym has been a great help defensively, and is currently second in the league in offensive rebounds with 4.86 per game,  while steady brother Ben has constantly provided spark on both ends of the floor.

Emman Galman, CJ Austria and Vince Cuajao are giving us a vision of La Salle’s long-term build with glimpses of what they can do despite limited playing time.

Second Round Crystal Ball

We can only improve.  Grouping a bunch of kids with diverse skill sets will always be a challenge at the beginning.  If Justin Baltazar continues to put up impressive numbers, plus the reemergence of Joaqui Manuel and Kurt Lojera, the Green Archers should be in the thick of the fight for the second slot in the standings.

It would be foolish to count out the NU Bulldogs and Adamson Falcons as they have shown their knack of challenging the league’s powerhouse teams.  As the Green Archers would have a better chemistry in the second half of the season, expect them to have theirs as well.

And if La Salle plays according to Coach Derrick Pumaren’s plan, then La Salle should be in good shape to enter the Final Four.


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