Korean stint boosts Maroons

University of the Philippines drew power, confidence and motivation from its recent stint with various Korean clubs as part of its preparation for Season 85 University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament.

Fighting Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde said facing the Koreans in a series of friendly matches tested their mettle and boosted their confidence and improved their chemistry heading into their title defense in the UAAP.

He said the Koreans are one of the best players in Asia and their fast-paced ball movement, accurate shooting and airtight defensive scheme prepared them for the tough grind ahead.

“We started late in our off-season so having a training camp overseas really helped us. Not only that, we also faced tough challenges together as a team since we have to talk about strategies with our teammates,” Monteverde told host Nikki Viola during the latest edition of The Athletes Tribune late Monday.

“Here in Manila, the challenge is per individual player. But abroad, our team defense was tested because the opponents move the ball fast as well as quickly setting up their offensive schemes.”

“This was our chance to get some exposure because we won’t be able to focus on skill development with the league starting in a few months. Through the tournament, we’ll be able to apply what we practiced.”

After seeing action in the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup last August, the Fighting Maroons flew to South Korea to face Korean Basketball League squads like Suwon KT Sonicboom, Seoul Samsung Thunders, Changwon LG Sakers, Jeonju KCC Egis, and Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus.

The exposure paid a handsome reward as they displayed tremendous maturity down the stretch to pull off a thrilling 72-69 win over De La Salle University in their opening game in the UAAP.

Gilas Pilipinas stalwart Carl Tamayo fired a double-double performance of 18 points and 19 rebounds while Terrence Fortea added 15 markers for the Fighting Maroons, who are favored to complete a title repeat.

Still, Monteverde refused to take all the credit, saying that their early success would not be possible if not for former coach Bo Perasol and the nowheretogobutUP Foundation.

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