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UAAP: UE coach hopeful for next season

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UE coach Jack Santiago. UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—University of the East coach Jack Santiago is optimistic about his team’s chances next year after getting eliminated from Final Four contention on Wednesday.

The Red Warriors got the boot after losing to the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 69-66, in overtime. 

Despite UE’s early exit, Santiago saw a lot of positives to build on for next season.

“I always preach to my players every game, there’ll be a winner and there’ll be a loser. What I want to see is the way we play and their attitude. If you notice, all our players are mostly young kids. What’s good here is, as I told my coaching staff, at least we saw players that can fill up (Nikko) Paranada’s shoes,” said Santiago, whose squad was once the fourth seed early in the season.

“If you look at our lineup, we are not that strong. We don’t have an import but every game, we showed we can compete. Maybe, a stage will come where our team will suffer down the stretch due to lack of materials,” he added.

The Red Warriors, however, won’t have a couple of their key cogs in Luis Villegas and Nikko Paranada, who are no longer eligible next season.

Villegas shone in his first and only season with UE, averaging 13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while Paranada normed 10.2 points and 3.2 assists per outing.

Santiago is confident other players will pick up the slack.

“Right now, I would say that they’re (players) getting our system. Let’s face it, we will lose key players like Paranada, (CJ) Payawal and Luis. We’re looking at recruits that we’re starting to talk to. Hopefully, we get some of them and they can also add to the missing spaces,” said Santiago.

Nikko’s younger brother Kyle is expected to lead UE next year after a promising UAAP Season 85 campaign where he is averaging 11.5 points, and 4.3 assists. Rey Remogat also showed what he’s capable of after exploding for 21 points in the loss to Ateneo after heading into the clash averaging just 2.7 points a game.

UE wraps up its Season 85 campaign against La Salle, which is gunning for a spot in the semifinals.

“I really, really hope next season will be like what we had this season. Hopefully, we can achieve something more for us to improve. For us, even though we are out of the race, we assure the UE community that we’ll still try to end this season on a winning note.”

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