National University is finally back at the Final Four since its first and so far, only appearance in the UAAP semifinals since 2001.
The 2001 NU batch, I remember, didn’t have the big financial backing of SM and Henry Sy. The Bulldogs, led by their team leaders Jeff Napa, Chico Manabat and Alfie Grijaldo, were plain happy to be able to wear the dark-blue-colored uniform and help NU make history in the collegiate league.
But this year, with the solid support of the Sy family, along with the patient guidance of the coaching staff led by Eric Altamirano and Joey Guanio, the Bulldogs are no longer the same team that UAAP teams used to beat handily.
NU’s Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. has no wonder helped the Bulldogs look really good and scary, particularly during crunch time where he has rescued the team a lot of times this season.
He has scored 30 points or more six times this year, numbers that not even two-time PBA center Danny Ildefonso was able to do during his time with the Bulldogs.
Since early this year, Parks and some of his teammates have been joining Victory U-Belt’s Youth service every Friday, where he gets a lot of spiritual help from his good friend, JR Sanchez, who is a dentist by profession.
Talked with Ray awhile ago and he was sharing how he has been doing Purple Book with JR and with Victory U-Belt youth pastor Ryan Tan at present. Want to know more about Purple Book, just click on this link.
What has also prepared the Bulldogs’ Season 75 performance was their team building in Tagaytay where two of Victory’s pastors led by Bong Navarro, helped facilitate it. At the tailend of their team building, Pastor Bong Navarro and his co-pastor led the prayer as Altamirano and the rest of the team dedicated their Season 75 campaign to God.
“This win is very significant to the NU community. This is where we want to be from the start of the season,” Altamirano was quoted by Inquirer, moments after the Bulldogs nipped the FEU Tamaraws, 84-81 in overtime to claim the no. 3 spot in the UAAP Final Four.
Post Script: The NU Bulldogs will face no. 2 seed University of Santo Tomas on Saturday (September 29) at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, where they hope to beat the Growling Tigers, who hold a twice-to-beat advantage. Back-to-back Final Four wins by the Bulldogs will catapult them to the UAAP Finals since their first and only college championship in 1954.