SAN Sebastian expressed confidence that this year's Staglets have the ability to bring back respectability to the juniors basketball team after several so-so seasons in the NCAA.
The Staglets put up a credible showing in the preseason heading to NCAA Season 93, even winning the Fr. Martin Cup crown during the summer. The performance came after the Staglets only won two games last season.
"Tiwala naman ako sa mga players ko na makakaya naman namin (na malagpasan 'yung two wins)," said San Sebastian coach Melo Banua.
During the offseason, San Sebastian was able to recruit three Grade 12 players from Adamson in Alex Desoyo, Jessie Sumoda, and Raymund Umayao. Team captain Damie Cuntapay is one of only six holdovers from last season's squad.
Despite having mostly new players, Banua said their recruits already have vast experience in the high school ranks.
"Malaking bagay din kasi beterano na rin lalo na kapag crucial at crunch time. Maasahan mo na sila," said Banua.
Cuntapay agrees as the recruitment of a pure point guard in Desoyo goes a long way for the Staglets this season.
"Medyo okay na kami ngayon. Parang nagkaisa uli kami at na-grab na namin 'yung sistema namin. Malaking bagay po kasi last year ang pinakakulang namin, point guard na makakapagdala at kayang tanggapin ang pressure," said Cuntapay.
Banua, who is also one of the assistant coaches of Egay Macaraya in the seniors team, said the main goal of the Staglets, who once won four straight crowns in the mid-2000s, is to regain their contender status in the juniors division.
The Staglets appeared to have taken a step in the right direction as they were a worthy challenger for San Beda in the juniors opener on Sunday before they bowed to the Red Cubs, 86-75, at the Letran gym. San Sebastian even led by as many as five points at one juncture of the match.
"May standard namin, maging quality team kami na nandun lagi kami (sa laro). Binabalik namin 'yung winning tradition," said Banua.
Cuntapay said they are patient in getting that respectability in the NCAA and careful that their preseason success won't get into their heads.
"Last season namin, ginawa naming parang inspirasyon para bumangon kami uli at makarating sa ganito. Hindi namin binigla sarili namin. Umangat kami step-by-step. Hindi namin makakalimutan na kahit nag-champion kami sa Fr. Martin, be humble pa rin. Huwag mayabang maglaro at huwag lumaki ang uli kasi mawawala 'yung laro," said Cuntapay.