NCAA Season 93 Preview: With key guys out, Cardinals to bank on defense
Head coach: Atoy Co
Last Season: 12-6 (3rd)
Holdovers: Andoy Estrella
Key Losses: Allwell Oraeme, Darell Menina, Joseph Eriobu, CJ Isit.
Key Additions: JP Nieles, Leo Gabo
Rather than dwell on his losses, Mapua coach Atoy Co is approaching the upcoming NCAA Season 93 with a sense of humor.
“We’ll be in the Finals,” he joked before feigning a laugh.
But it’s clear to Co that what happened to the Cardinals in the offseason is no laughing matter.
From the drama that surrounded reigning two-time NCAA MVP Allwell Oraeme to the departure of lead playmaker Darell Menina, it’s obvious that Mapua will look far from the squad which made the Final Four for the past two seasons.
Though the return of Leo Gabo softens the blow, putting the responsibility on him, senior Andoy Estrella, and the comebacking JP Nieles might just be too much to ask for the Cardinals.
“I’ll expect them to score 30 each and every night,” said Co, making himself believe in the words he’s saying.
It’s clear, though, that with his top four offensive options gone, Mapua must double down on defense and do the dirty work.
“For us, defense is the most important part so that we can give a very good fight. Whoever is the opponent’s top guy, we’ll double him and rotate on defense,” Co said.
With little expectations coming into the season, all the PBA legend wants is to see a Mapua squad fighting until the end and not a listless team that is ready to get blown out of the water whenever they come to play.
“Every game, we will be there, we will give a good show,” he said. “We will fight. I don’t want us to lose in a humiliating fashion. Even though we lost a lot, we want the other teams to have a hard time against us. We’ll still do our part.”