After suffering heartbreak at the hands of Southwestern University in last year’s Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s division finals, the University of San Carlos Warriors have risen from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix, all the way to the top of the standings this season.
Sporting a 6-0 win-loss record, the Warriors have taken all comers and have dropped each one, looking like every bit the championship contender that Cebuano basketball observers have pegged them to be.
And while much of their success can be attributed to the stellar play of Cameroonian import Shooster Olago who averages 19 points, 16 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 1.7 blocks, wingman Ian Tagapan has also risen to the fore to play an effective Robin to the former’s Batman.
With defenses constantly keying in on the 6-foot-6 Olago, Tagapan has consistently punished opponents with his accurate perimeter sniping and incredible athleticism, en route to averaging 17.7 points per game, third best in the league.
Asked for the secret for his breakout season, Tagapan said there was hardly any, just good old fashioned hard work and the insatiable desire to make up for the disappointment of losing the championship to the Cobras last year.
“I try to give my best every game. I don’t think too much, stay focused and play with my heart. Gusto lang nako lupigon ang akong performance sa previous game,” shared the 22-year old, Business Administration-Operations Management student in a talk with Cebu Daily News.
“Last year we had it but we lost it. Now it made us hungrier to win the championship. We know that it’s still a long road for us but I just try to be ready,” the athletic two-guard added, the hunger palpable in his voice.
Unbeknownst to many, Tagapan recently celebrated the birth of his first-born. With this came a new perspective on life, both on and off the floor for the young cager.
“I’m blessed. Being a dad to my first baby and being a basketball player, it changed me to become more responsible and disciplined, on and off the court. There are just so many things to take care of!”
With his improved play getting increased attention, not just from opponents but from basketball scouts as well, Tagapan said that he is hopeful of making it to the next level once his collegiate career comes to an end.
“Well the reason why I came back here from Portland is to finish college and play basketball. If there’s an opportunity, why not? I want to take my talent to another level.”
For now, the mission remains the elusive Cesafi championship, one that has escaped the grasp of Carolinians since the league’s inception in 2001.
“We have to stay hungry and remain humble. Just compete in every game. We got a new coaching staff, some new teammates but only have one goal. We are all on the same page.”