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Letran Knights solid for the years to come – Fernandez

Letran will be a force to reckon in the years to come following the acquisition of three former UST players.

Letran will be a force to reckon in the years to come following the acquisition of three former UST players.

 

 

By Waylon Galvez

 

 

 

San Beda mentor Boyet Fernandez believes that defending NCAA champion Letran has the tools to become a dominant force for the years to come after tapping the services of three former University of Santo Tomas players.

Fernandez, whose Red Lions lost to the Knights in an exciting best-of-three showdown during the 95th NCAA Season, said Letran has become more formidable with the additions of Rhenz Abando, Brent Paraiso and Ian Bataller.

“If you look at the future malakas talaga,” Fernandez told Manila Bulletin-Tempo in a phone interview Friday. “Although for this season solid na naman talaga ang Letran, malakas pa din sila.”

Letran, however, will be without Jerrick Baranza and Bonbon Batiller – two key players in the Knights’ title run last year – as well as backup center Christian Balagasay.

The three will be playing in the resumption of the PBA season next month in Clark, Pampanga.

The holdovers for Letran of coach Bonnie Tan include Finals Most Valuable Player Fran Yu, Larry Muyang, Ato Ular and Jeo Ambohot, while the freshmen eligible for this year are Joseph Brutas, Kenny Rogers Rocacurva and Jay Pangalanan.

Abando, Paraiso and Bataller need to complete the one-year residency – or finish the two semesters – to be able to play for the Knights.

The league is looking at the possibility of opening in March 2021 opening.

But if there is no vaccine against the coronavirus, the opening will be further delayed – perhaps in August.

Regardless of the opening, Fernandez thinks Letran has what it takes to contend for a second straight title.

Just like the Knights, the Red Cubs have also firmed up their lineup as they are hell-bent of getting back at their Intramuros-based rival.

“Of course gusto namin is maibalik sa San Beda ang NCAA championship,” said Fernandez. “Kami din naman nagpalakas after mawala ang ilang players namin kaya maganda tingin ko ang chance ng team.”

Despite losing Cameroonian players Donald Tankoua and Arnaud Noah, as well as Clint Doliguez and AC Soberano – both PBA players now – and Evan Nelle (now with De La Salle University), the Red Lions will still have reigning MVP

Calvin Oftana and Filipino-Canadian guard James Kwekuteye-Canlas.

Fernandez said they also elevated four mainstays from NCAA junior’s champion Red Cubs – Rhayyan Amsali, Yukien Andrada, Winston Ynot and Justin Sanchez.

 

Also, the team added JV Gallego from NU and Brendon Ocampo, a 6-foot-1 product of Canada’s Durham Crossover Program, the same system that produced Canlas, who was part of the 2019 NCAA Mythical Five.

“Kami naman nagpalakas and nagpe-prepare din kami, with our online training bawal naman kasi now ang physical training and karamihan sa team nasa province,” said Fernandez.

“Pero hindi lang naman ang Letran ang tinitignan namin. May mga teams din na nagpalas, like Mapua, San Sebastian, Arellano and Lyceum. So hindi lang Letran ang kailangan na paghandaan.”

Fernandez said they are still waiting for the MANCON decision with regards to practice sessions since the government – through CHED – already said that college teams would be allowed to train under strict health protocols.

“Kami naman susunod lang kami sa kung anong sabihin ng MANCOM. Actually nagpaalam kami ng ‘bubble training’ sa campus, pero hindi kami napayagan last May so sunod kami,” he said.

“Kaya eto kung anong mangyayari next month kung mapayagan ba ang college teams na mag-training, we’ll see. Basta kami susunod sa decision ng NCAA kasi yun ang tamang gawin.”

 

 

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