5 new coaches to call shots as NCAA cage ‘wars’ erupt in a few days

July 01, 2019

THE five new coaches hope to make an impact with their respective teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament which opens on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Among the new faces calling the shot in Season 95 who are hoping to foil another San Beda-Lyceum of the Philippines University finale this year are Cholo Martin (Arellano University), Bonnie Tan (Letran), Oliver Bunyi (Emilio Aguinaldo College), Louie Gonzalez (Jose Rizal University) and Randy Alcantara (Mapua).  

Seeking to make it to the Final Four after a two-year absence, the Chiefs got a boost with the return of veteran guard Kent Salado for his final season.

"Nag-start nang maaga, nakapagtayo ng team. Nagsidatingan ang mga gusto kong players. Nagpasalamat ako sa Arellano and coach Jerry (Codiñera) that I have a competitive team this year," said Martin.

The Chiefs are coming off a 5-13 season which is good for eighth place and went 14-22 overall in the last two years.

Making a return in the league is Tan, who hopes to steer the Knights to the Final Four for the second consecutive year and hopefully to reclaim the throne they last won in 2015.

"I am quite fortunate to be left with a slew of talent by coach Jeff (Napa), so I hope that we get to compete very hard. I expect a good game from Letran," said Tan, who will have co-captains Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller as his main men for this season.

Losing double-double machine Hamadou Laminou is a bitter pill to swallow for the Generals, who will make do with what they have to achieve a breakthough Final Four appearance.

"For us, we'll just try to improve on our record. We'll be sure to compete but tempering expectations of course," said Bunyi, who inherited a team that went 4-14 last year.

With holdovers MJ dela Virgen and Karl Bordon left in the roster, Gonzalez is looking forward for his young Bombers to gain maturity after the Mandaluyong-based squad finished dead-last last year at 3-15.

"Para manalo tayo, we have to play together. We have to focus on wnat we are doing and we will see from there," said Gonzalez.

Being a long-time assistant to predecessor Atoy Co, the Cardinals are eyeing to make strides under Alcantara, who before finally moving up to the collegiate ranks has won the title for the Red Robins last year.

"Hindi kami masyadong nahirapan," said Alcantara.

After the 12 noon opening ceremonies, hostilities will start at 2 p.m. with the Knights taking on the Pirates, followed by the 4 p.m. showdown between the four-peat seeking Red Lions and the Chiefs.

Arellano is this season's host - its first-ever since the Legarda-based school joined the league in 2009 - with the theme "Kaisa sa Pagkakaiba."

"Bukas ang liga para sa lahat ng klase ng tao. If there is diversity, there is strength," said NCAA Policy Board chairman Francisco Paulino Cayco. "I'm sure this will be an exciting league."

"Please consider this as a springboard for the commemoration of 100 years of NCAA five years from now," he added.

Aside from the Perpetual Trophy which will be given out to the seniors division general champion which was annnounced last week, the league will introduce a high-tech dodgeball game called "HADO".

Cayco also announced that the second semester events such as volleyball and football will be played in January next year, as the NCAA will give way to the country's hosting of the Southeast Asian Games in November.