Parks downplays NU's chances

Bulldogs will host first game in new arena

Just a day after leading his team to the Fil-Oil Flying V Hanes Pre-season Cup title, Bobby Ray Parks remains cautiously optimistic about the chances of the National University Bulldogs in the coming Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) tournament that will open on July 14.

“It’s a great stepping stone for us, but of course we have to stay humble because teams play differently in the UAAP,” said Parks, who was named Most Valuable Player of the pre-season tournament, and is the reigning MVP of the UAAP. “And now they have more time study us. And at the same time, we’re not there yet. So we still got a lot [to do] to get better. We still got a month.”

The Bulldogs outclassed the De La Salle Green Archers, 64-54, in the title game, with Parks finishing with 19 points. The athletic swingman credited his other teammates for also doing their part in the big win, and NU actually pulled away at the start of the fourth period with Parks resting on the bench.

“It was a team performance,” he said. “The team played great, and we stuck together. That’s the biggest difference for now, it’s just being together as a family. And throughout the training camp it’s really helped us. It shows on and off the court. It paid off. It definitely paid off.”

NU missed the Final Four last year, finishing with a 6-8 record, but the team has improved leaps and bounds over the last several months, with Parks noticing a big shift in their maturity level.

“Last year we had eight rookies, and now everybody’s maturing,” he said. “And you can tell that from the way we play. Everybody has a green light to shoot. We’re just running the floor and defending. Everybody’s playing more relaxed.”

Parks spoke yesterday at the media tour of the SM Mall of Asia Arena, which will host the UAAP opening weekend as well as several other tournament playdates.
“We actually got to practice here this morning,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. It’s like playing in an NBA arena. The rings were good, but I think they had to adjust it because they were too low. They have a lot of tweaking to do.”

With the opening of the UAAP barely four weeks away, workers are rushing to get the venue ready for an expected mammoth crowd. NU will be this season’s host, and the university, which has all but shed its tag as the whipping boy of the league, is leaving no stone unturned to make this 75th season of the UAAP one to remember.

“They haven’t put much in it,” said Parks, referring to the team locker rooms, “There are lockers and showers. But right now I can tell you it’s definitely more spacious than Araneta.”

The arena can seat over 16,000 fans comfortably for a basketball game, with even those in the nosebleed section getting cushiony seats. There are also 31 skyboxes for private viewing, all furnished with two sofas, a mini-kitchen, and 18 seats with an elevated view of the playing court.

The traditional opening ceremonies, scheduled for 12:30PM, will usher in Season 75. The very first UAAP game to be played at the MOA Arena will fittingly feature the Bulldogs, who will tangle with the University of the East Warriors at 2PM. Last year’s runner-up Far Eastern University takes on University of Sto. Tomas in the second game at 4PM. The following day, on July 15, La Salle battles University of the Philippines at 2PM, after which Ateneo opens its drive for five versus the Adamson Falcons at 4PM.


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