The Last Dance: JD Cagulangan On His Farewell Season And UP’s Bid For Redemption

JD Cagulangan discusses with The GAME his incoming farewell season and the Fighting Maroons’ continued push for a second championship. 

On May 13 2022, JD Cagulangan etched his name into UAAP lore. In the closing minutes of a dogfight against Ateneo for the UAAP championship, the floor general orchestrated two straight plays which led to UP’s first title in 32 years. 

In particular, Cagulangan drilled that stepback triple which sealed the deal for State U. Championship for UP secured, and his UAAP career finally restarted. 

Fast forward to today, Cagulangan is entering his last dance in the UAAP. Alongside his veteran expertise are two straight heartbreaks after the Maroons fell short of the championship in back-to-back UAAP seasons. 

Inevitably, JD hopes for the team to reach their full potential, and finally return the trophy to Diliman in his farewell season.

“I’m very excited for this UAAP season. Syempre its my last year and gusto ko, hopefully, na ‘yung exit ko sa UP is maganda and ‘yun. Gusto ko maging masaya this season,” he told The GAME during the PinoyLiga Collegiate Cup Season 3 media day on Tuesday. 

“Obviously, we lost to La Salle last season, siguro dun napag-isip ko na…I mean two seasons natalo kami ng Finals, so ang pangit naman kung aalis ka ng ‘di mo nakuha ‘yung championship para sa UP….Pero eto, may chance ka ulit [manalo ng championship] kaya ako nag-stay. Gusto ko makuha ‘yung championship this season,” he explained. 

Cagulangan is also entering Season 87 as one of UP’s veterans. In fact, he’s one of four players left from the Season 84 title squad alongside Terrence Fortea, Harold Alarcon, and Gerry Abadiano. 

JD Cagulangan hopes to be one of the Maroons' key leaders.
JD Cagulangan hopes to be a kuya to the younger Fighting Maroons. (Photo Credit: UAAP)

Given this, he hopes to be the best leader for their new guns. Of course, he can’t forget about that second championship under Goldwin Monteverde. 

Gusto ko ma-instill sa kanila kung ano ‘yung sistema na gusto ni coach Gold [Monteverde], na gusto nya gawin ng mga playersand for this year gusto ko lang mag enjoy lahat. Gusto ko lang tapusin nang maganda ‘yung college career ko and hopefullly makuha ‘yung championship. 

It’s also with his leadership that Cagulangan wants to be remembered for…besides his game winner in 2022 of course. For him, it’s important to lead the young Maroons “the right way” and toward the “next level of basketball.”

In fact, these also tie in to Montverde’s marching orders to him and the team’s other vets. Those orders? Lead by example to the young Fighing Maroons. 

“Just give like our 100 percent everytime na naglalaro kami. He wants us to be like an example for the young ones na everytime, even in our practices, everytime na nasa floor kayo, give your 100 percent para makita ng mga bago paano kayo magtrabaho and gagayahin kayo,” Cagulangan bared. 

The Fighting Maroons right now 

Like JD Cagulangan, the Fighting Maroons are also motivated by their repeated championship heartbreaks. To recall, in Season 86, UP was unable to fend off a resurgent La Salle squad led by Kevin Quiambao and Evan Nelle. 

And in Season 85, they were also unable to close out archrivals Ateneo in Ange Kouame’s farewell tour. Consequently everyone, from Cagulangan to his teammates up to his coaches, are motivated by these shortcomings. 

“Dahil natalo kami ng dalawang sunod. Nandon na kami and biglang bumitaw lang. So everytime na mahirap ‘yung ensayo, mas pinili naming bumangon ulit kasi natalo nga kami ng dalawang beses so ‘yun. Parang nag-mark siya sa motivation sa lahat,” he explained.

JD Cagulangan hopes for no more heartbreaks by Season 87
No more heartbreaks for State U by Season 87, hopefully. (Photo Credit: UAAP)

Cagulangan shared UP is currently reviewing their Season 86 lapses, alongside building team chemistry. Part of their current preparations is ensuring the team is “united” and on “one page”, even off the court. 

But JD Cagulangan still sees positives. One, he said their new recruits are easy to lead, and are good listeners. 

Two, he noted they are more “veteran laden” compared to the Season 86 squad. Despite losing CJ Cansino and Malick Diouf, much of UP’s core remains intact, including the four Season 84 veterans. 

And this setup has paid off. For instance, Cagulangan said he and other veterans are helping new foreign student athlete Dikachi Udodo adjust to the UAAP. 

So of course bago sakanya ‘yung stage na UAAP, but all the veterans are helping him. ‘Yung ma-adapt nya lahat ng gusto ma-instill ni coach [Gold Monteverde]  na system and ‘yun. Tinutulungan lang namin sya,” Cagulangan shared. 

Early preseason days

As of our interview, UP and 17 other teams will begin their PinoyLiga campaigns by April 6. For JD, this allows UP to see how much progress they have made since starting regular training in January. 

“Ito ‘yung first tournament namin for the preseason, so dun namin makikita kung pano na kami maglaro, and chemistry namin macha-challenge din, paano mag-handle ng mga pressure. May media, social media,” he said. 

With PinoyLiga’s setup, Cagulangan added it would be a “good experience” for them. For context, UAAP and NCAA teams, or other collegiate leagues would face off in the tournament. 

Because of this, Cagulangan said they would face off against “many” other systems and playstyles. 

“Sobrang laking tulong na makakalaban ka ng ibang teams, hindi lang sa NCAA. Mayroon din ibang school. So ‘yun, excited.” 

Banner Image from UAAP.

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