For 27 years, UE has deliberately played the waiting game, season after season. From each year’s high hopes to every after game’s unwanted truth, the dream of painting the Smart Araneta Coliseum (and the Mall of Asia Arena) red remained a prayer since the team’s last UAAP crown in 1985.
Though still carrying the longest winning streak in the league, the Red Warriors eventually lost its intensity and settled second best in its basketball campaigns.
There were even rapid changes from the coaching staffs to line ups. A lot commented as though the team was changing for the worse. With its current All-Filipino state, it’s inevitable to hear both positive and negative responses. More often than not, many pointed out the disadvantage of having an import-less roster.
Personally, during my four years of covering UE games, these two consecutive seasons were the most heartbreaking I have ever had with the team. From its unbeatable 14-0 record up to its last tour to the Finals in 2009, I was a witness of UE’s undying performance led by bulky and witty stalwarts until its current barely breathing status in the banner sport.
Still, there’s hope lingering in every Warrior’s heart that soon, though maybe not as soon as possible, these men will once again capture the limelight.
While on my ride home, former Red Warrior and friend Paul Zamar messaged me via SMS. It was the most recent chat we have ever had after he left Lualhati’s courts last season. I remembered how both of us were frustrated with season 74, and now that he has already graduated and focuses on his new endeavor as a basketball player as well as an assistant coach, we still shared the same sentiments about the squad.
“Hindi pa nila nakukuha ang confidence nila. Patience lang. (They haven’t gained their confidence yet. We need more patience.),” Zamar texted.
The conversation continued until I arrived home. Concerns not just about present careers but also views regarding the team were tackled. I even recalled his father Boyzie Zamar who was also a Philippine basketball legend and a Red Warrior.
With almost a handful of games done, it is obviously too early to judge the team’s capacity of uplifting its winless status at the moment. With rising King Warriors Roi Sumang and Chris Javier, UE remains to be one of the teams to beat. Just more exposure and passion to the sport, these two sophomores can ignite the Warriors, from pushovers to once more history makers.
Though, it is always overwhelming to reminisce the past, the glory of the East, victory is ever sweeter when first gone through challenges, and then experience feat.