For the NU Bulldogs, the 82nd season of the UAAP will ultimately boil down to maturity and development. Considered a team built on potential and promise, the young Bulldogs are finally hoping that their experience can match their talent.
"We're really excited about the vast improvement of Dave Ildefonso and John Lloyd Clemente -- that they're coming into season 82 with experience unlike last year when they were rookies," said NU coach Jamike Jarin. "So that's what we're banking on. We're looking forward to it."
Ildefonso and Clemente barged into the UAAP with their explosiveness and scoring abilities. In just their first season, they proved that they belong in the Seniors division and that they can be at the forefront of NU's offense. But as their coach mentioned, they were still in their first year and still lacked experience. Now with a full year under their belt, as well as number of preseason games, the two are ready to push the Bulldogs to the next level.
Even Jarin, who is entering his third year in NU, has had his fair share of gained experience.
"Well of course all coaches, we all learn. We have to learn from coaching -- the competitions and the adversities that we encounter, the wins and the losses. So you have to learn from all of this, even from winning," said Jarin, a champion coach with the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA. "From last year, I really feel that we were very young, and hopefully, the maturity that we had coming into this year would really help us a lot."
NU will welcome the return of point guard Chino Mosqueda back into their lineup. Last year, a month before Season 81, Mosqueda suffered an ACL injury, which had a huge impact on the Bulldogs.
"That actually derailed us," Jarin said about his starting point guard. "Now he's at 100 percent. We're happy that he's back. Hopefully, he can be a big factor in our campaign this coming UAAP."
Mosqueda has been named team captain alongside Shaun Ildefonso and the two will provide veteran leadership for the young squad.
Aside from staple names like Ildefonso, Clemente, and the returning Mosqueda, Senegalese center Issa Gaye is ready to turn heads this season.
"I'm excited also about the vast improvement of Issa Gaye," said Jarin, mentioning that the input of assistant coach Danny Ildefonso, as well as fellow assistant John Ferriols, played an integral part in the big man's improvement.
"He played subpar from last season, but hopefully, he will play with the same kind of game in his rookie year," Jarin said. "Hopefully, he'll get back his form so we will be very competitive compared to the centers of the UAAP."
Have the Bulldogs gained enough experience that can finally lead them back into the Final Four? Jarin refuses to make any bold predictions.
"To be honest with you, we're just looking at the September 7 game (versus Adamson Falcons). Like what coaches would say, we'll take it one game at a time so I'm still sticking with that," said Jarin. "Hopefully, we stay healthy. If we stay healthy, we're going to be very competitive unlike in previous years."