LETRAN opens its four-peat feat campaign with a new coach and practically a revamped team as it clashes with a Jose Rizal side out to create a lasting impression in the NCAA Season 99 basketball opener at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
The Knights have tapped Rensy Bajar to pick up from where Bonnie Tan left off while moving on after losing Fran Yu, Louie Sangalang, Brent Paraiso, King Caralipio and Tommy Olivario, who were instrumental in last year’s triumphant title reign.
“We lost some of the leaders of the team and key players from past campaigns but we will work harder to compete and make the school and our fans proud,” said Bajar, himself a former NCAA alumnus having suited up for San Beda during his college days.
Expected to carry the mantle of responsibility for the Knights is Kurt Reyson as their new team captain.
“Will do my best to try to lead by example,” said the high scoring, sweet-shooting 25-year-old Reyson.
For the Bombers, their mentor Louie Gonzales is optimistic they could surpass their effort from the last year’s campaign.
“I expect better days,” said Gonzales, whose team finished tied for sixth with three other squads with identical 7-11 records before winding ninth of 10 after tiebreaks were applied.
Game time is set 3 p.m., or an hour after the season curtains will be unveiled with elaborate opening rites at 2 p.m.
College of St. Benilde, runners up the past two seasons, for its part, launches its own title bid minus reigning MVP Will Gozum, who will serve a one-game suspension following a head-butting incident that also involved Letran’s Pao Javillonar in the deciding Game Three of last season’s finale.
The Blazers will be battling the Lyceum of the Philippines U Pirates at 5:30 p.m.
ĹP “We will be out without Will Gozum but we will go out there and compete,” said CSB mentor Charles Tiu, who is expected to parade an almost intact team headed by skipper Robi Nayve, Miguel Oczon, Mark Sangco, Miguel Corteza and Prince Carlos.
LPU coach Gilbert Malabanan vowed to pick up from a strong effort a year ago when they finished in the Final Four.
“We learned a lot from last season and we hope to continue learning this year,” said Malabanan, whose roster has returnees, skipper Enoch Valdez, McLaude Guadana, Shawn Umali and John Bravo among others.
2 p.m.- Opening Ceremonies
3 p.m.- JRU vs Letran
5:30 p.m.- LPU vs CSB