You couldn’t say that the University of the East Red Warriors are having a successful campaign in UAAP Season 80. After the first round, they only managed to come up with one win in seven tries. However, there is one bright spot for the Red Warriors and that’s second-year star Alvin Pasaol.
The bruising forward broke a 15-year UAAP record when he erupted for 49 points last October 4 against the defending champions De La Salle Green Archers. For an encore, he scored 32 points and gave UE its first victory of the season.
There are a lot of prolific scorers in the game today, but Pasaol carries with him a unique attitude that embodies who he is a person. He is a deadly scorer, but brings an infectious warmth to people. He is the king Red Warrior, and at the same time, he is a court jester.
“Parang happy-go-lucky, laid back,” UE coach Derrick Pumaren said of his star forward. “Pero he is the leader of the team.”
Pumaren recruited Pasaol from Davao, projecting that he was going to make headlines in the UAAP. The coach personally went to Pasaol’s home in the province and talked to the parents. He wasn’t expecting much from his rookie year last season, but now certainly expects a lot more from him.
And if Pumaren could make one comparison to Pasaol, he only had one name on his mind.
“He is like Vergel,” beamed Pumaren, talking about his former Sunkist player Vergel Meneses. “Vergel is parang he loves to have fun ganun, but when it’s time to play, when it’s business, then he goes down to work. That’s his attitude.”
Pumaren and Meneses worked in tandem in the PBA where they won two straight titles in the 1995 season. Meneses even won the Most Valuable Player award that year. More than two decades later, the coach sees his former player right through Pasaol.
“Syempre si coach, kabisado nya ako eh. Para i-compare nya ako doon (Pasaol), pwede tayo maging model ng bata,” Meneses said when asked for his reaction about the comparison to the UE forward. “Kung ano yung na-achieve ko, kung paano ako nung naglaro, pwede tayo sundan ng bata, maging inspiration para sa kanya.”
Meneses, now coach of the JRU Heavy Bombers in the NCAA, has seen Pasaol up close only a handful of times during tune-up games. He didn’t realize that the youngster had in him to explode for so many points.
The underlying qualities for both Meneses and Pasaol according to coach Pumaren is their fun-loving attitude and their ability to suddenly turn into a stone-cold scoring machine in a blink of an eye.
“Si Vergel kasi di ba medyo mabiro, ganun-ganun, tawa-tawa,” explained Pumaren. “Parang pag nagsasalita ako, nagr-run ng play akala mo di nakikinig. Vergel is just like that too. Ganun-ganun. When we run it, he knows what to run.”
Pumaren proved his point during UE’s last game against the UST Growling Tigers. The Red Warriors were in control for most of the contest, until the Tigers made a late rally. When they finally lost the lead, Pasaol fired up his teammates on the bench. Pasaol knows when to have fun and he certainly knows when it’s time to go to work.
“There are type of players na parang they just want to enjoy the game,” assessed Meneses on Pasaol’s free-spirited approach. “He’s so relaxed but he’s gonna kill you. Relax lang sya pero papatayin ka niya.”
He went on, “Sa akin kasi, I just enjoy the game. Pag di ako nage-enjoy, parang nakasimangot ako, 20 points lang ang gagawin ko. Pag nag-enjoy ako, patay sila eh.”
Pasaol has a long way to go before he can achieve what Meneses has claimed over his storied PBA career. In the meantime however, there is nothing but a bright future ahead of him especially with a legendary coach behind his back.
“I think this is more of a confidence booster for him. When you’re in a zone, you feel that everything is gonna go right,” Pumaren said about Pasaol’s recent scoring feats, and added, “Hopefully it’ll produce another MVP in the PBA.”
As for the man known as “The Aerial Voyager,” he has no qualms with the comparison to Pasaol and even offers to become a role model for him.
There is however one thing that Meneses wanted to point out.
“Pero ako, di ako mataba ah,” he said jokingly.