By Jerome lagunzad
New University of the East coach Joe Silva has started to hit the ground running for the Red Warriors and he could earn the biggest piece of a future championship puzzle sooner than later.
Silva, 37, himself disclosed to Tempo-Bulletin yesterday that they are making an aggressive push to acquire the services of Diliman College’s Senegalese big man Adama Diakhite, considered by many as one of the most dominant foreign players outside of the UAAP and NCAA circle.
The 6-foot-9 Diakhite, who just turned 21 last month, already attended a pair of UE practices since the former Ateneo Blue Eaglets tactician, a two-time UAAP juniors champion mentor, started to preside the training sessions last Tuesday.
“We liked what we saw,” said Silva. “Adama has always wanted to play in the UAAP. Feeling niya talented enough siya to play in the league. Siyempre, kahit sino naming coach, player and even foreign player, gusto sa higher level of competitions talaga.”
The imminent arrival of Diakhite already has the blessing of returning Red Warriors bankroller Bong Tan, who will try to sustain his success after helping the Batangas City-Tanduay Athletics rule the inaugural Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League conference last month.
“Ang gusto ni Boss Bong, hindi siya papasok sa UE ulit kung magiging talunan lang. He’s a true winner,” said Silva, adding Tan is expected to sit down with Diakhite and his representatives once he returns home from the United States next week.
Silva added that Tan “actually told us to find an American player para at least marunong na. Talagang gusto ni Boss Bong na maibalik ‘yung winning tradition ng UE.” The Red Warriors last hoisted the UAAP crown back in 1985.
If things fall according to plan, Diakhite could serve as UE’s first foreign player in UAAP Season 82 since Africans Charles Mammie and Moustapha Arafat played under veteran Derrick Pumaren back in UAAP Season 77.
For now, Silva will have to bring out the best from top gun Alvin Pasaol, guards Philip Manalang and Christopher Conner, and big men Nick Abanto, Rey Mark Acuno and Will Bartolome ahead of the UAAP Season 81 starting in September.