NCAA: Preseason favorite San Beda faces huge hole left by Rome de la Rosa
MANILA, Philippines—The NCAA is set to welcome its 90th season but just like in previous years, the mighty San Beda Red Lions find themselves in a similar situation.
Being thrown with that familiar question: “Who is the team to beat?” coaches think it’s still San Beda.
“It will still be very hard to beat San Beda,” said Jose Rizal University head coach Vergel Meneses during the press conference Monday held at the Mall of Asia Arena. JRU, this year’s host, will open its campaign against the Red Lions.
The Red Lions are gunning for a fifth straight championship and their head coach, Boyet Fernandez, sees it as a grueling grind to the top.
“It will be a tough one for us to win five straight,” said Fernandez, the second-year mentor. “I believe all the teams are really strong but we’ll be ready. We just have to improve every day and every game.”
San Beda will once again be bannered by its six-foot-eight Nigerian center Ola Adeogun, heady playmaker Baser Amer and crafty forward Art de la Cruz.
What San Beda won’t have, though, is the services of Rome de la Rosa, who already maxed out his playing years as a vital part of the Red Lions’ four-peat.
And Fernandez believes filling in the void left by his former skipper De la Rosa is one of the early concerns his team has to address.
“I’m a defensive coach so I really need a defensive guy every time inside the court. It will really be a tough task to replace Rome and we’ll need everyone to step up defensively to fill that hole,” Fernandez said.
“Rome is just one player who graduated but he leaves a big hole because he is our number one defender,” admitted Adeogun.
Taking the role left by De la Rosa will be Anthony Semerad, who has constantly improved since his first season in the league.
“He’s improving really well on defense; before he was just a shooter but right now he can really play at the other end of the court,” Fernandez said of Semerad.
Letran, which lost to San Beda in the finals in the past two seasons, also lost a key cog in its lineup with the graduation of Season 89 MVP Raymond Almazan.
“We’re now a smaller team without Raymond Almazan but the wall of Intramuros is still there with Kevin Racal and Mark Cruz,” said Knights assistant coach Raymond Valenzona.
Perpetual Help will also have to deal with the loss of a key piece in Nosa Omorogbe while Emilio Aguinaldo College and College of St. Benilde hope to apply the lessons learned from the previous season.
“We won’t have any import but we can still make it to the Final Four. And it will be a different story when we make it there,” said Altas coach Aric del Rosario in Filipino.
“We’re still inspired in spite of the results of last year’s campaign. Hopefully this year we have matured enough,” said CSB coach Gabby Velasco.
“We almost made it to the Final Four last year and a new season is a new opportunity for us,” said EAC mentor and former PBA guard Gerry Esplana.
As for the opening ceremonies this June 28, league president Vincent Fabella said it would be a “grand opening” at the MOA Arena. “We’re very excited for the opening. We’ll be introducing technologies and visuals only seen in events like the NBA.”
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