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Henry Liao

Aroga: A Diamond in the Rough

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His name did not ring a bell a few months ago but Alfred Dong Aroga, one of the two Cameroon imports on the National University team, now commands respect among his peers in the ongoing University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) menís basketball competitions.

This elongated kid with raw skills whom I watched play in a prominent preseason collegiate circuit last May has evolved into a huge inside
presence for the Bulldogs in Season 77. So long as the size of his hat does not grow any bigger , he could quickly develop into the next Ė if not a better version of Ė former NU import Emmanuel Mbe in a short time.

According to some collegiate hoops followers, NU has become a better team this year without its former meal ticket and offensive wizard Bobby Ray Parks, who bypassed his final year of eligibility last summer after three seasons with the school, and four-year veteran Mbe.

Parks and Mbe helped lead the Bulldogs to a UAAP Final Four appearance the past two years but the team did not reach the finals both times, including last campaign when they were the top seed after the eight-school, double-round elimination phase.
No way did the departure of Parks make a better team. I will take Parks any time on my team and chances are he will make it a much-improved unit.

My take on NUís frontrunning start (currently a share of first place with another surprising leader Ateneo de Manila University) has to do with a better constructed gameplan by Bulldogs bench boss Eric Altamirano.

Itís the gang-type rebounding and a strong defensive effort that have propelled NU to the top thus far.

Four players are averaging eight or more points per game, including three in double digits. The team is outrebounding the opposition, 45.7 rpg (No. 2 in the league behind De La Salle University) to 37.3, for the biggest differential among the eight schools.

On defense, the Bulldogs are surrendering just a UAAP-low 49.3 ppg, including a 62-25 romp of hapless Adamson University last July 30. The University of Santo Tomas ranks a distant second in fewest point allowed at 59.0 ppg.

NU gave up just 40 points to the UST (59-40), 59 vs. the equally inept University of the Philippines (70-59), 57 vs. La Salle (a 57-55 loss), 60 vs. Ateneo (64-60), 25 vs. Adamson and 55 vs. UE (57-55).

In blocked shots, NU is tops, too, at 4.67 a game Ė far ahead of second-placer Ateneo with 4.00 bpg.

Beanpole Jeth Troy Rosario, a 6-7 power forward from Cagayan who is in his final year, ranks 10th in the league in point production with a team-high 12.2 clip. He also is seventh in rebounding with 7.7 rpg and is 10th in blocked shots at 0.80 bpg.

Joshua Angelo (Gelo) Alonino, the 6-foot, four-year floor general, is contributing 10.7 scores, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and a team-leading and second league-best 1.50 steals per contest.

Team skipper Glenn Khobuntin has also stepped up his game, especially his work off the boards. Off the pines, the 6-4 power forward is averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and a team-best 2.3 assists an outing. The fifth-year vet owns the most rebounds in a single game this season with 16 caroms during a 64-60 triumph against Ateneo last July 26.

Still, the biggest reason for NUís early success has to be the play of 6-7 rookie Aroga, the anchor of the teamís defense and rebounding efficiency.

Aroga, who was ineligible a year ago due to residency-related problems, currently ranks No. 1 in rebounding with 10.0 rpg and blocks shots with 2.17 bpg. A Roman Catholic from Cameroon, Aroga is also tallying 11.5 points a game on .475 (28-of-59) field shooting.

Arogaís backup, Henri Joel Betayene, also is norming 1.0 swats an outing, eighth best in the league.

The bottom line: Defense and rebounding are two areas where theyíre clicking for the NU Bulldogs so far.
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Philippine Basketball


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