[Editor's note: Here's part eight of our preview series on NCAA Season 94.]
Last Season: 3rd Place (9-9)
Key Holdovers: Michael Calisaan, Allyn Bulanadi, RK Ilagan
Departures: Ryan Costelo, Jayson David, Renzo Navarro
Newcomers: Alex Desoyo, Neil Villapando
Head Coach: Egay Macaraya (3rd season)
EGAY Macaraya’s blueprint for San Sebastian pencils the Golden Stags as a legitimate title contender in his third year on the job.
Developing players and building a cohesive team over the past two years, there’s no doubt in his mind that his alma mater can give the usual suspects a run for their money.
But that was in Macaraya’s perfect world.
The real world did let him build a competent San Sebastian squad up to his second year, one that has banked on its defense game-in and game-out and even went a win away from booking a spot in the Finals.
That was until the unexpected exodus of players from Recto which left not only Macaraya but the Golden Stags program as a whole reeling, turning them from potential championship protagonists to fringe Final Four hopefuls.
“Dapat sana umabot na kami sa championship this year. Yun ang goal namin sa program namin,” he admitted. “Pero di namin nakita yung mga distractions sa likod ng program. May lumilipat at may nawawala. I don’t know what happened.”
But rather than mope on the departures, San Sebastian is taking that as a challenge.
“Even though hindi naman talaga magiging madali sa amin itong season na ito dahil masyadong maraming nawawala, but the boys are motivated. They are working hard in practice, trying to jell, and trying to overcome all distractions. We accept the challenge,” he said.
Hardworking forward Michael Calisaan gives the Golden Stags one last go as he aims to make a lasting impact in his final year. Joining him in this quest are sniper RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi, who is poised for a breakout year this NCAA Season 94.
Aside from his big three, Macaraya is placing the same heavy burden on the rest of the team as he hopes to see the players’ collective hunger lead to great results for San Sebastian.
“Everybody wants to win kasi nakikita ko na as a rookie, they want to prove themselves. Dahil din sa mga nangyari at nawala sa team, everybody wants to take their place and gusto nilang mag-step up,” he said. “I want everybody to feel the pressure also, to accept yung challenge.”
As tough as this season presents, there’s no doubt in Macaraya’s mind that he still has a team ready to take on all comers and has a real chance to reach his ultimate goal of winning it all.
“Marami kaming mga bago, but hopefully, the character and the attitude is still there para makapunta kami ng Final Four,” he said.
“Siguro naman sa mga napagdaanan namin, I can say na automatic yun na meron talagang mga puso ang mga batang ito para lumaban, na anumang mangyari, tatayo sila bilang Baste players.”