IN two days’ time Season 93 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) officially rolls out with San Beda College expressing readiness to defend its men’s basketball title albeit recognizing that it is up against souped-up competition.
Handled anew by comebacking NCAA coach Boyet Fernandez, the Mendiola-based Red Lions are looking to claim back-to-back titles this season and 21st overall to further solidify their hold as the most successful team in NCAA seniors basketball.
The Lions, as expected, have been chosen by the rest of the field as the consensus favorites to win the title in Season 93 but they are taking it in stride and not getting ahead of themselves.
“We’re in for a tough season because our opponents have gotten better. It will be tough for me as well since I’m coming back. I’ve not seen a lot of our opponents yet save for the FilOil preseason tournament but based from the other NCAA teams’ performance there league parity this season would very good,” said Mr. Fernandez, who guided San Beda to the title in 2013 and 2014 before leaving the team, at the NCAA Season 93 press conference held early this week.
“The goal for San Beda is always to win the championship. But it would not be given to us of course and we have to work for it as every team this season has improved. I admire all the coaches that I’m competing against and looking forward to a competitive season,” added the San Beda coach, who took over the reins with the departure of erstwhile coach Jamike Jarin.
Mr. Fernandez went on to say that an “intact core” should provide the needed motor as they set forth for another NCAA campaign.
Guard Robert Bolick, who significantly upped his stock as a player in the last year, is expected to banner San Beda’s cause this season with help from the likes of Jayvee Mocon, Jose Presbitero, Davon Potts, Ben Adamos, AC Soberano and a pair of talented rookie transferees in Clint Doliguez and 6-8 Kenmark Cariño.
The Lions will also be boosted by the return of Donald Tankoua from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury he suffered in the second round of Season 92 after a solid first round.
Tankoua will be joined by Arnaud Noah as San Beda’s foreign players this season. The two beat out Nigerian Toba Eugene for a roster spot.
“After hours of deliberation, we decided that Tankoua and Noah should stay as San Beda’s foreign players in Season 93,” said San Beda team manager Jude Roque of the decision of the school on who which foreign players to suit up.
Noah, last year’s finals most valuable player, is expected to get the start while San Beda waits for Tankoua to fully recover, which is estimated to happen in the second round.
San Beda is coming off a successful preseason tournament in the Premier Cup where it beat University Athletic Association of the Philippines champion De La Salle University.
It is something that the Lions hope to build on come Season 93.
“Our preseason tournament was a good start for us but the work continues for the team,” said Mr. Fernandez.
The defending champions Red Lions begin their NCAA title defense on opening day on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena at 2 p.m. against season host and rival San Sebastian College.
NCAA Games will be broadcast live over S+A and S+A HD and via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com.