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    Jeff Napa fast-tracking CEU player development through D-League

    Mar 19, 2020
    PHOTO: marlo cueto

    FOR a program so decorated like Centro Escolar University, it's a tough pill for it to all of a sudden go on a rebuild.

    But it's a path the Scorpions have no other option to take with coach Derrick Pumaren and Senegalese center Maodo Malick Diouf taking their act elsewhere, after major roster changes early last year.

    Now, coach Jeff Napa is tasked in rebuilding the once-proud CEU side, one that he's taking head-on.

    "Kailangang maranasan din namin itong mga paghihirap na ganito. Kailangan pa namin i-correct lahat ng mistakes at maging positibo. Alam namin na marami pang kailangang trabahuhin. Kailangan namin pagdaanan ito," he said.

    What better way for the Scorpions to hit the restart button than playing against the elites in the 2020 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup.

    Karate Kid-CEU had a forgettable debut, starting the conference with a 93-57 humilation at the hands of Marinerong Pilipino last March 2.

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    "Kita mo na yung familiarity ng team, wala pa," remarked Napa. "Nagsi-sink in agad yung frustrations. Kailangan lang ilagay sa tama."

    The Scorpions rebounded strong, though, the game after, putting up a strong fight before faltering late against EcoOil-La Salle, 79-73, last March 9 as they put up a tough stand against their former coach Pumaren.

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    That performance did put a smile on Pumaren's face despite them going their separate ways.

    "These are the guys na na-recruit namin. They're a lot better than their last game and it showed," the veteran mentor remarked.

    Pumaren was glad his old team showed its character after everything it went through last season, from the lowest of lows in players being kicked out due to game-fixing allegations to the highest of highs highlighted by the school sweeping their way to an NCRAA title.

    This team, however, is now Napa's as the multi-titled coach is tasked to bring CEU back to its old glory.

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    "Fina-fasttrack ko lahat," said the former Letran coach who also led the NU Bullpups to three UAAP Juniors titles as he now leans on holdovers Dave Bernabe, Franz Diaz, and Rich Guinitaran to anchor the team.

    "Right now, kailangan i-build ang foundation ng mga bata tulad ng ginawa ko sa mga previous na hinawakan ko para pagdating sa laban, may idea na sila sa kailangan na approach. Positive naman ako na kaya nila, pero experience-wise lang, medyo kulang pa."

    Lucky for the Scorpions, they are willing to trust the process in hopes that the Scorpions can eventually get back to their old deadly form.

    "There's no pressure naman. Alam naman ng management na nasa transition and rebuilding process ang team," said Napa. "Positive lang kami na maganda ang approach pa rin. Yung mga leaders lang, kailangan nila ma-gain yung confidence para mabitbit namin sa ibang liga."

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