February 21, 2024

School Spirit: UST starting five among active players in PBA

School Spirit: UST starting five among active players in PBA
Art by Royce Nicdao

The number of former UST Growling Tigers in the PBA has dwindled significantly over the years.

But UST, one of the winningest teams in UAAP history, has produced some of the country’s basketball juggernauts like Bogs Adornado, Danny Florencio, Bal David, and current Growling Tigers coach Pido Jarencio.

Right now, though, there are only seven active players who once donned the white-and-gold jersey in the UAAP.

As part of the School Spirit series (check out the Adamson Flacons version here), One Sports picked the starting five of proud university. There’s no criteria whatsoever. They just have to be an active player in the PBA.

These five, while lacking in size, can give teams a run for their money.

Jeepy Faundo (Season 76 to Season 80)

Faundo is not among the most prominent UST figures. But in the eyes of some UST faithful, he is just as hardworking and as valuable as any UST big in recent memory.

In his last year with the Growling Tigers, he normed a near double-double by averaging 9.0 points and 8.5 rebounds.

His willingness to do the dirty work has earned him spots in the PBA. Now, he’s playing for the San Miguel Beermen, who are looking to stomp class in the Commissioner’s Cup with the seven-time MVP June Mar Fajardo back in the pink of health and ready to dominate.

Ed Daquioag (Season 73 to Season 77)

His was one of the most inspiring stories in Growling Tigers history.

His collegiate career had a rocky start. In his second year, Daquioag was diagnosed with a bacterial disease called rheumatic fever.

After that, though, things took off for the Ilocos Norte native. In 2015, the 6-foot-1 guard was even an MVP candidate.

The Terrafirma cager brought his mojo to the pros, where he has proven to be a steady playmaker.

Allein Maliksi (Season 72)

As a Growling Tiger, Maliksi was known more for his athleticism.

He got his biggest break in the amateur ranks with the Cebuana Lhuillier where he won the first PBA D-League Foundation Cup MVP in 2011. He was drafted 9th overall in the same year.

While he wasn’t the main man when the then San Mig Coffee Mixers’ won the Grand Slam in PBA Season 39, the journeyman undoubtedly played a vital role in those conquests.

At 36, he is one of the leaders of the championship-starved Meralco Bolts and is among the league's premier marksmen. 

Kevin Ferrer (Season 74 to Season 78)

Hitting six three-pointers in the third quarter of Game 2 of the finals against the FEU Tamaraws was easily the highlight of Ferrer’s career with UST.

But it’s not only his shooting that made him an invaluable part of Jarencio’s teams in the early 2010s. He was also a pesky defender who prompted then two-time UAAP MVP Ray Parks Jr. to liken UST to the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons.

Those two things became his ticket to the PBA, where he was picked by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the 2016 PBA Special Draft.

Ferrer, who is currently recovering from an Achilles injury, won titles with Ginebra before being shipped to the NorthPort Batang Pier, who then traded him to the Terrafirma Dyip.

Aljon Mariano (Season 72 to Season 77)

Mariano has had a lot of heroic moments during his heydays at UST. He had a lot of clutch baskets, with some calling him Clutch Cat.

Unfortunately, not a few members of the Thomasian community forgot about that after, well, opting to take the final shot instead of passing the ball to Jeric Teng in the final moments of Game 3 of the UAAP Season 76 finals against La Salle Green Archers.

But like a true “Pride, Puso, Palaban” apostle, he soldiered on. To cut the long story short, Mariano, the hulk buster to some PBA fans, has been a reliable forward for Ginebra, playing a big role in the team's multiple championships, usually as a pesky defender.

Breaking down the team

This unit will be undersized at the 4 and the 5, but while it will be short in height, it will be long on fighting spirit and grit. Scoring, meanwhile, will fall on the capable hands of Daquioag and Maliksi, with Ferrer providing additional firepower and Mariano some of the in-between expertise.

Now, is this team good enough to win a hypothetical championship? Probably not. But it will carry that pride, puso, palaban mantra that has become the UST trademark of recent years. That means it will fight until the very end in every game.