Knights scrapped out of opening day hostilities
The start of Letran’s chase for a historic National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) first will have to wait a while.
Having the chance to win two titles in a year, the Knights have been grounded and won’t play on opening night of the 98th Season on Saturday after a number of their players contracted COVID-19.
In a position to rewrite their epic back-to-back men’s crown with a possible third one in a span of four months, the Knights were supposed to open up against Emilio Aguinaldo College at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
COVID aside, the reigning title holders are already cornered in a complex web of unease that they would want to untangle before thinking of extending their reign where nine other teams are targeting the humongous bulls eye on their backs.
“We’re undermanned right now, it’s an area that we have to resolve,’’ said Letran coach Bonnie Tan, with the team losing its biggest star, Rhenz Abando, to the lucrative South Korea pro league.
Back in May, the Knights celebrated their second straight men’s trophy at the expense of the Mapua Cardinals in a championship series they masterly swept with Abando winning Rookie-Most Valuable Player.
Jeo Ambohot, the skipper last year, and Allen Mina have also graduated and are both in the Philippine Basketball Association, leaving much of the burden on veterans Fran Yu, King Caralipio, Christian Fajarito, Brent Paraiso, Kurt Reyson and Mark Louie Sangalang, among others. Marc Paolo Javillonar is on rehab for a pulled hamstring he sustained in a preseason tourney.
“We’ll deal with it one game at time. We have an 18-man lineup with eight rookies. Hopefully we get our first game to dictate the outcome of our succeeding games,’’ said Tan.
That first game will be on Sept. 14 against Jose Rizal University at Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
Last season’s losing finalist, the Cardinals are out to redeem themselves with an intact lineup, while the San Beda Lions, Perpetual Altas, College of St. Benilde Blazers are just as formidable along with the San Sebastian Stags.
“Our goal again is to make it to the Final Four. We have figured out the areas where we should improve on,’’ said Mapua coach Randy Alcantara.
On top of men’s basketball and women’s volleyball tournaments, NCAA Season 98 hosted by Emilio Aguinaldo College welcomes back swimming, track and field, juniors’ basketball, men’s volleyball, beach volleyball, taekwondo, chess and the cheerleading. INQ
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