NCAA Season 94 gives Letran, Arellano and JRU another shot at the Final Four.
The Knights and the Chiefs barely missed the NCAA Season 93 semifinals. While the Knights edged the Chiefs to have a shot at the last post-season slot, the Intramuros-based squad was denied of a playoff berth by the San Sebastian College Golden Stags. It was also the Egay Macaraya-coached team that ended the season of the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers during the step-ladder Final Four.
With their fates ending in heartbreak, Letran, Arellano, and JRU will fight to improve on their performances from last year. Here are the players that can bring each school over the hump.
Though coach Jeff Napa was known to be a deadly perimeter shooter, the teams that he has coached followed a similar pattern: having bruising interior presence and stingy defense. That’s what they got in the off-season when they recruited former De La Salle Green Archer Larry Muyang and former College of Saint Benilde Blazer Christian Fajarito to run with the impressive Jeo Ambohot. Christian Balagasay completes their daunting frontcourt rotation that can provide a menacing shade against those who will try to score on them in the paint.
But Letran’s upgrades are not limited to their big men because the back-court rotation have also been bolstered by former University of the East Warrior Edson Batiller and offensive dynamo Jason Celis. The 5’ 9” guard from Chiang Kai Shek is joined by teammate EJ Agbong who can play the guard and forward spots. Former Batang Gilas and UE Red Warrior Fran Yu will also suit up for the Knights after playing varsity basketball in Thailand. These players will provide firepower of the bench while giving star players JP Calvo, Bong Quinto, and Jerrick Balanza a breather.
The Letran Knights might have lost Rey Nambatac coming into the NCAA Season 94, but they have orchestrated a masterful job in acquiring a stockpile of talent. With gritty defense and viable scoring options throughout the rotation, anything short of a Final Four stint would be a disappointment.
That Kent Salado being out for the season due to an ACL injury is a big blow to the Chiefs’ campaign. Add to that the departure of Lervin Flores and Zach Nicholls and it seems that Season 94 is one to forget. However, there is still reason to have high hopes because Levi Dela Cruz will now take the helm as orchestrator while he is supported by Michael Canete who will fill in Flores’ spot and Richard Abanes.
The optimism does not end there for they have recruited the sensational Guillmer Dela Torre from their junior ranks as well as Filipino-American Maui Serajosef who has turned some heads during his stint at the Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup. Then and now, the Chiefs have embraced the underdog role to great results. This year would be no different as coach Jerry Codi?era steers this squad into the Final Four.
JRU Heavy Bombers
A glance at JRU’s roster will make one think that it will bomb this season. Veterans Gio Lasquety and Ervin Grospe are gone, and so too is Teytey Teodoro, who left despite his eligibility. Gone are their foreign players Abdel Poutouochi and Abdul Wahad Abdul Razak as well. But on the bright side, it is now reigning NCAA Most Improved Player Jed Mendoza’s turn to show that he can carry this Vergel Meneses-coached squad.
But while Mendoza is an able go-to guy, the Heavy Bombers offense should also trickle to the likes of former NCAA Juniors MVP Darius Estrella and guard MJ Dela Virgen. Also suiting up for Jose Rizal University are Ry Dela Rosa from San Beda High School, former UE Junior Warrior and impressive two-sport athlete Agem Miranda, and the menacing Andrei Dulalia. It seems that they are already gearing up for the 2020 season, wherein no foreign athletes will be allowed to compete. But for now, their rebuilding starts. This means that the JRU faithful must be patient through growing pains.