Championship Aspirations at DLSU: The Topex Robinson Era Begins
Bold declarations set the tone for the Season 85 DLSU Green Archers as team patriarch, Enrique Razon, addressed the squad alongside their newly appointed head coach, Topex Robinson.
A Distant Memory of Glory
Ever since the days of Ben Mbala’s rim-shaking dunks and Jeron Teng’s fearless exploits led them to the Season 79 title, the Green Archers’ performance has been a far cry from stellar. The burning question now: Are they prepared to transform from UAAP trainwrecks to title contenders?
After Season 79, La Salle managed just one Finals appearance, missing the coveted Final Four thrice, including a heart-wrenching defeat at the hands of the Adamson Falcons last season. That bitter 76-80 loss to Adamson marked the beginning of a tumultuous period, with the departure of head coach Derrick Pumaren. The ensuing chaos attracted vultures from rival UAAP schools, eager to poach La Salle’s talent.
As the Archers deliberated on their next move, wild imaginations and persuasive recruitment pitches ran rampant. However, the appointment of Coach Topex Robinson brought stability to troubled waters. A former NCAA coach with a track record of nurturing talents like CJ Perez and Calvin Abueva, Robinson’s arrival convinced key players like Evan Nelle to stay and halted prized rookie Kevin Quiambao from heading elsewhere.
After a rollercoaster ride in the Fil-Oil/Eco-oil Summer League and a triumphant PBA D-League campaign, the ultimate question lingers: Can this iteration of the Topex Green Archers realize their championship dream?
Season 85 in Review: Missing the Mark
La Salle’s Season 85 campaign ended prematurely in the shadow of the Final Four, exacerbated by the absence of their primary combo guard, Schonny Winston. The results were catastrophic; without Winston’s playmaking abilities, the Taft-based team struggled to find their offensive rhythm.
The Green Archers heavily relied on Winston’s lethal midrange game to create space for Michael Phillips and Quiambao in the paint. However, without a reliable spot-up shooter, they languished, ranking fifth in the league in total field goal percentage (37.85%), with subpar marks of 43.52% from 2-point range and a dismal 25.5% from beyond the arc.
To compensate for their offensive struggles, La Salle leaned on relentless board crashing, led by the tenacious Michael Phillips, ranking second in total rebounds during the eliminations with 45.86 boards per game. Their ball movement-centric offense also topped the league with an average of 20.21 assists per game. The signature Pumaren press produced 11.4 steals per game, and their rim protection led the league, averaging 4.43 blocks.
Despite these strengths, the Archers fell short, primarily due to losses against supposedly weaker opponents like UE and FEU, which offset their impressive victories against Ateneo, UP, and a clean sweep against NU. Consistency remained an elusive virtue.
The Topex Robinson Era Begins
Coach Topex Robinson’s arrival marked a departure from the past. Known as a player’s coach, his ability to connect with his charges stood in stark contrast to his predecessor. Even the enigmatic Calvin Abueva and former Lyceum star CJ Perez had high praise for Robinson’s coaching style.
A closer look at the summer league results tells an intriguing story. La Salle embarked on an impressive 11-game winning streak during the Fil-Oil/Eco-Oil eliminations, only to be derailed by UP in the finals. UP’s rookie sensation, Mark Belmonte, led the charge to a convincing 87-76 victory, showcasing the Maroons’ dominance.
Nevertheless, the Archers rebounded swiftly, overpowering NCAA powerhouse San Beda in the PBA D-League finals. One win and one loss summarized their summer league campaign.
La Salle’s journey didn’t end there. They locked horns with arch-rivals Ateneo in the finals of the 38th Kidayawan Invitational Basketball Tournament in Davao, setting the stage for an intense battle. While the Archers built an 82-70 lead, they saw it narrow down to 83-81 due to stiff Blue Eagle defense. Familiar habits, including stagnant offense during crunch time and excessive three-point attempts, resurfaced.
As any player’s coach would say, “They made the right decisions; they just happened to miss their shots.”
The New Archers: A Glimpse of Hope
This season, the Green Archers introduce a promising cast of newcomers:
Junel Policarpio: A former Mapua Red Robin standout, Policarpio boasts an impressive high school resume. His double-double averages of 19.7 points and 11.7 rebounds caught attention. He displayed his inside-out prowess during the summer league, offering nightmares to opponents with his versatility.
EJ Gollena: After a year of residency, Gollena brings his hustle to Taft Avenue. The former Lyceum Pirate stepped up when key players were absent, providing crucial offensive support.
Joshua David: A standout from La Salle Greenhills, David finally debuts as a Green Archer. His heroics in the high-stakes NCAA Juniors championship game against Mapua showcased his potential.
Starting the Season Against FEU
On October 1, 2023, at the MOA Arena, the Green Archers will open their campaign against the FEU Tamaraws. With a revamped lineup and the addition of import Mohamed Faty, the Tamaraws aim to rebound from a lackluster previous season. Still, questions loom regarding their ability to compete at a high level.
FEU’s returning core includes Patrick Sleat, Xyrus Torres, Brian Sajonia, James Tempra, Royce Alforque, and speedster LJ Gonzales. However, their previous season’s performance statistics do not paint a promising picture, with their struggles in field goal percentage, points in the paint, and turnovers.
As the Topex Robinson era dawns upon DLSU, the Green Archers aim to rise above their recent mediocrity and embark on a championship quest. The journey begins against FEU, and with the pieces in place, the Archers are eager to redefine their UAAP legacy.