Knights go into battle with Nambatac and Cruz leading charge

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jun 24, 2015 03:50 PM
Knights go into battle with Nambatac and Cruz leading charge
GEARED UP FOR WAR. Mark Cruz, Rey Nambatac, and Letran hope their versatility is enough to compensate for their lack of a traditional center.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 9-9, sixth

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Mark Cruz, Rey Nambatac, Kevin Racal

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Jerrick Balanza, Matt Bernabe, Don Sollano, Aldin Ayo (head coach)

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: N/A

When a collegiate player takes the number of a legendary alumnus and says outright that he is out to match, if not surpass, the feats of said legend, then that collegiate player should only be more than willing and ready to back up his claims.

Fortunately for Colegio de San Juan de Letran, a willing, ready, and most importantly, capable player is exactly what they have in Rey Nambatac. The third-year guard has frequently stated during the preseason that he nor his alma mater is used to early exits after the back-to-back graduations of Kevin Alas and Raymond Almazan proved too tough to handle last season.

The former NCAA Juniors MVP has gone out and taken over as the Knights’ primary offensive option in the 2015 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament. Now wearing the jersey #6 Alas used to have, Nambatac is raring to double his 9.2-point average last season.

With Nambatac in charge of the first group, new coach Aldin Ayo has requested team captain and second leading scorer Mark Cruz to come off the bench so that Letran can sustain their attack and improve on what was the second-worst offense the last time around.

Emphasizing that the Knights need to replicate their stingiest defense from a year ago, Ayo will also have at his disposal versatile players such as reliable veterans Kevin Racal and Rey Publico and prized rookies Jerrick Balanza and Don Sollano.

However, Ayo’s intact veterans and talented rookies do not cover up Letran’s Achilles heel: rebounding and interior defense. The Intramuros-based squad had no player norming more than four rebounds and more than 0.6 blocks last season.

Ayo has started forwards Sollano and Publico at center and gave heavy minutes to hardworking but undersized Felix Apreku in the preseason. It remains to be seen if the Knights fortified defense and added offensive firepower can overcome their lack of size especially against the Final Four teams, all of whom have only gotten bigger.

Admitting last season’s problem remains a problem, Ayo told ABS-CBN Sports, “Wala kaming malaki. Wala kaming foreigner. We will compensate on our lack of height with speed.”

Nonetheless, Ayo confidently said that his team will compete and keep competing no matter what. “We’re going to compete and gagawin namin lahat ng tama para manalo,” he said.

Just don’t ask the new mentor of the Knights for any guarantee that the traditional collegiate powerhouse will be making a return to the playoffs. “Ang goal namin is to win as many games as we can,” Ayo said.

Letran starts their NCAA Season 91 campaign against CSB on June 30 at the San Juan Arena. The game will be broadcast LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports+Action Channel 23 at 4:00 PM and will also be streamed LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports.com.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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