Napa’s Knights out to shock the world once more

Napa’s Knights out to shock the world once more
SURPRISE PARTY. As always, Letran is an afterthought heading into the NCAA season - but team captain Rey Nambatac says that is exactly what they want to be.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 9-9, 6th place

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Jerrick Balanza, JP Calvo, Rey Nambatac, Bong Quinto

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Paul Pamulaklakin, Daryl Pascual, Jeremiah Taladua

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Felix Apreku, Mcjour Luib, Jom Sollano

Nobody is talking about Colegio de San Juan de Letran.

In the preseason, all the talk has been about San Beda College’s dominance or about San Sebastian College-Recoletos’ resurgence or about Lyceum of the Philippines University’s emergence.

Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help made news with big-time upsets of De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University, respectively.

Also, there has been talk about Emilio Aguinaldo College’s biggest chance for a breakthrough as well as Arellano University, College of St. Benilde, and Mapua University’s new eras.

Again, nobody is talking about the Knights – yes, the same Knights who slayed a giant and reached the mountaintop just two years ago.

And that may just be everybody’s biggest mistake.

“Kahit na ‘di kami pinapansin ng mga tao, gagawa kami ng paraan para mapansin nila kami,” a confident head coach Jeff Napa expressed.

As always, Intramuros’ most storied program is an afterthought even as Rey Nambatac remains and all of Jerrick Balanza, JP Calvo, and Bong Quinto are ready to step up. “Ang aasahan pa rin namin si Rey siyempre, tapos si Calvo, maganda na ang maturity. Nandyan pa rin naman si Bong and Jerick,” Napa said.

But for Letran itself, flying under the radar is exactly what they want to do. As team captain Nambatac put it, “Gusto namin, wala masyadong nag-eecpect sa amin so no pressure. Basta kami, we will work hard in silence lang.”

He then continued, “Hahayaan na lang namin na sila yung makakaala na grabe kami magtrabaho.”

Behind that core four, the Knights are confident they can charge right back onto the Final Four, onto the Finals, and perhaps even onto another championship. “Ang goal namin, siyempre, win as many games and get back on top. Ever since, yun naman ang goal namin,” Napa expressed.

Still, the head coach entering his second season at the helm knows very well how much of a tall task that is. “Kahit na sabihin mong second season na namin itong magkasama, bata pa rin ang team na ito. Si Rey lang ang pinaka-veteran dito,” he said.

Indeed, the graduating guard is Letran’s lone fifth-year player while Calvo and Quinto are their only fourth-year players.

However, Napa was quick to point out that nobody should count out his youngsters including much-improved Jeo Ambohot and Christian Balagasay as well as newcomer Jeremiah Taladua. “Nung preseason, nabigyan ko ng confidence yung mga bata namin so I’m pretty sure na mag-step up sila,” he said.

In the end, only one thing is truly sure for these Knights – the very same thing that has been true for all of the players who have defended the walls of Intramuros. “We’re pretty sure na we’ll go all-out. Yung puso namin, lalaban talaga no matter what happens,” Napa shared.

That is, after all, what they used in their Cinderella run to the championship just two years ago.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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