By NIKOLE JAVIER
College of St. Benilde head coach Charles Tiu’s morale took a blow from last season’s championship beating that the Blazers are now even more eager begin the redemption in NCAA Season 99 this Sunday, Sept. 24.
While the spirits are high, Tiu along with the rest of the team, hasn’t regained the full confidence they once had following their loss against eventual three-time defending champion Letran Knights from the previous year.
The 38-year-old mentor is keeping a realistic goal for his squad which is to perform better this year after their productive offseason, but also wary of the tough contenders they are soon to face.
“I hope we’ll be able to bounce back obviously for me we still remember that loss. Our goal is to do better than that. But it’s a different story. Last year, we had a lot of things kind of aligned for us. We had a lot of things go our way. This year, it’s back to zero. A lot of the teams are so competitive, I think more so this year than the last. I feel every team has a chance to really contend, at least five or six teams are deep, prepared to give us problems,” Tiu said during the Original Penguin Par-Tee golf tournament he hosted on Monday, Sept. 24 at the Power Plant Mall in Makati.
“I can’t say I’m that confident entering this season, I am still worried right now. We still have a lot of work to do,” he added.
The St. Benilde rotation will also no longer have its former captain JC Cullar, who was recently drafted by Rain or Shine in the PBA.
Meanwhile, reigning MVP Will Gozum is set to miss the opening game and likely a few more after sustaining a fractured left ring finger a few months ago playing in the MPBL.
“For a while, I think even he was getting frustrated with himself because he felt he wasn’t playing well,” Tiu said.
During the offseason, Tiu got a gauge of the team’s level of play and decided to bring in two European coaches as consultants including Serbian national team mentor Rajko Toroman in hopes that the reinforcements and preparations will translate into something significant come the season.
The Blazers resume action against the Lyceum Pirates in the double header feature later this week at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.