BEST OF 5 Part 5: No one-and-done for forward-looking LPU
PRESS START. CJ Perez will be back for one more year in the NCAA - and LPU hopes that this is only the origin of their continued contention.
Read Part 1 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Read Part 2 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Read Part 3 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Read Part 4 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here.
Lyceum of the Philippines University is so close to the greatest season in the 93-year history of the NCAA that they can taste it.
After going undefeated through 18 games in the elimination round, the Pirates need just two more wins to complete the greatest-ever perfect season.
Yes, a 20-0 record will put them in a league of their own.
The last team to have accomplished a perfect season was San Beda College in 2010, but only had an 18-0 record as there were just nine teams in the league then.
While that would be the fitting end to what has been a magical season, the Intramuros-based squad doesn’t want an ending just yet.
IT’S THE CLIMB
For them, a championship – or a runner-up finish – is just another step they are taking in their journey. As head coach Topex Robinson put it, “Building a culture is not a one-time thing; it’s gonna take a while. I always remind myself na not just because we’re in the Finals, we forget ano ba yung vision namin.”
He then continued, “There has to be a constant reminder to myself that setting a culture is a combination of all the seasons that’s about to come.”
Robinson has not gotten tired of reminding his boys that all of this, from the underwhelming first two seasons to this magical season, is just a part of their overarching desire to inspire others.
And so, for LPU, the championship round up against the defending champion Red Lions is only yet another chance to showcase skills and have a positive effect on all who are watching them. “I always tell them that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sabi ko nga, the longer we play this season, the longer we could really spread the word,” the always amiable mentor said.
He then continued, “At the same time, I always tell them that now they’re in this position, mas malaki yung responsibility. People know who they are so mas marami dapat silang matutulungan."
MAKE A MARK
Without a doubt, it’s nothing but amazing to watch, or read about, or hear about the Pirates who just joined the first and oldest collegiate league in the country in 2011 and are now knocking on the door of history.
All of that, they have done by standing as David to the Goliaths of the land such as San Beda. “The masses could relate to us because we’re not a well-funded program. We don’t have the money like the other big programs have,” Robinson shared.
He then continued, “What we have are people who are committed to winning. What we have are players na napulot ko sa tabi-tabi and are just happy to be given a second life.”
CHIP ON THE SHOULDER
CJ Perez, the MVP frontrunner, went from Pangasinan to San Sebastian College-Recoletos and then transferred to Ateneo de Manila University only to find his home inside the walls of Intramuros.
MJ Ayaay, the glue guy, went from the end of the bench to a key reserve and now, team captain. Mike Nzeusseu, the inside presence, is a forgotten name among all foreign student-athletes.
Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee found no place in Adamson University. Reymar Caduyac just may be the steadiest player in the league, but gets no props for it.
Robinson himself failed to find success in his first coaching gig with alma mater San Sebastian.
The list goes on and on and on for all of LPU.
Always remembering how they had to claw for every inch just to get to where they are keeps each and every one of them going. “We always go back to saan ba tayo dati? Sila, tinapon sila ng teams nila and now, they have an opportunity to redeem themselves,” their mentor said.
He then continued, “Once you touch that part of their lives, they really become more aligned to where I wanna go. That’s where I keep them grounded.”
All season long, the Pirates have said they want nothing more than to inspire others.
Now their story is coming to its climax, they hope they have already done just that. “I hope that we could also inspire programs that are not well-funded to really look deep inside their hearts to find a way. Instead of complaining, you can find a way to win,” Robinson said.
And so, win or lose in their first-ever Finals, the crew from Intramuros is already on the right track. “Whatever happens in the Finals, our vision is not gonna stop there. We’re not a goal-oriented team; we’re vision-oriented. Goal is you hit a number, it’s done while vision is, it’s way beyond what’s happening now,” the head coach said.
He then continued, “We can be contented now – nobody thought we were gonna be 18-0. But again, that’s not what we want. What we want is to be persons who make an impact, who become an inspiration.”
And watch out, LPU is not just limiting itself to the NCAA, to the sport of basketball, and even to the Philippines. “You know, being part of something bigger than yourself is really important. We’re here to change the world, how good is that,” Robinson mused.
He then continued, “We’re talking about the world – not just the LPU community, not just the NCAA, but whoever we could touch. That’s not a guarantee of winning a championship, but it’s always about giving, sharing, and inspiring.”
Indeed, you and LPU made us believe, coach.
Now, believe us when we say.
Win or lose, these LPU Pirates made an impact.
Win or lose, these LPU Pirates are here to stay.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.