By Jerome Lagunzad
Under the radar in the off-season, the Letran Knights have put themselves back in the spotlight, exactly five days before they plunge into action in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament.
Forward Bong Quinto and promising playmaker JP Calvo have reportedly decided to sit out this season at the 11th hour, thus dealing a huge blow to the Knights who are aching to redeem themselves from a disappointing sixth-place finish last year.
However, second-year coach Jeff Napa is not one to dwell on things he cannot control since Letran, the 2015 champion, is already in the thick of its preparations for its opening assignment against Mapua on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
“Sa mga ganitong bagay tayo pwede mag-grow. Tinitignan ko na ‘yung bigger picture, ‘yung brighter side ng mga bagay.
Whatever happens, we’re ready to battle,” said the 37-year-old Napa in a phone interview yesterday.
Even without Quinto and Calvo, Napa is confident the Knights still have what it takes behind top gun Rey Nambatac and able backups Jerrick Balanza, Jeo Ambohot, Christian Balagasay and Lance Vacaro.
Much is also expected from former La Salle recruit Darryl Pascual and Lyceum transferees, Jeremiah Taladua and Paul Pamulaklakin, plus Tarlac native King Caralipio and former Squire Tommy Gedaria.
“Masaya ako sa composition ng team ko na halos puro bata. I’m sure a lot of them will have breakout performances this season. Kahit andyan si Rey, collective team effort pa rin ang magpapanalo sa team na ‘to,” said Napa, a former National U star in early 2000s.
Giving Napa an added source of confidence is the fact that he has enough time this time to instill his system that produced three UAAP juniors titles for the Bullpups.
“Mas kilala ko na silang lahat ngayon. Nagkaroon ako ng time para mas maging open sa kanila in terms of our communication, me being their coach and even as tatay or kuya off the court,” he said.