Letran expects tough game vs JRU in NCAA Season 99 opener
MANILA, Philippines—Defending champion Letran fires off its title defense against host Jose Rizal University to open the NCAA Season 99 on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Letran, which is parading a new coach in Rensy Bajar, is aiming to capture a fourth consecutive men’s basketball championship this season.
“For Sunday, expect JRU and Letran to set the tone for Season 99, it’s going to be competitive and exciting,” said JRU coach Louie Gonzales.
The Knights remain the favorites despite losing the core of their championship run last season.
“We all know JRU is a tough team, last time we barely won. Every time we play against JRU, we expect competitiveness,” said Bajar.
Last season, Letran also opened its campaign against JRU in a clash where the Knights escaped the Heavy Bombers, 101-97. That game also saw Letran guard Kurt Reyson explode for 31 points.
Reyson is expected to be one of the Knights’ leaders in Season 99 following the departure of Fran Yu, Louie Sangalang, Brent Paraiso and Finals MVP King Caralipio.
Last season’s losing finalist College of St. Benilde will also make its Season 99 debut on Sunday when it faces semifinalist Lyceum.
The Blazers, who lost to the Knights in three games in the finals last December, will have to make do without their star big man Will Gozum against the Pirates.
Gozum will miss CSB’s season opener due to a one-game suspension after being ejected in Game 3 of the Finals against Letran.
“We haven’t been playing very well, so our confidence isn’t that good so hopefully the guys are able to focus on the season because Lyceum is a Final Four team.”
The Pirates, meanwhile, will bank on Enoch Valdez, who was recently selected late in the second round by the NLEX Road Warriors in last week’s PBA Draft.
“Honestly, last year we never won against Benilde so the players are excited. All the teams want to win. Expect our team to be very ready,” said Lyceum coach Gilbert Malabanan.