(Editor's note: This is the ninth of our series of 10 NCAA previews on Season 94.)
Last season: Runner-up (18-0)
Key holdovers: CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino, Mike Nzeusseu, MJ Ayaay
Departures: Wilson Baltazar, Pipoy Marata
Newcomers: Rhanzelle Yong
Head coach: Topex Robinson (4th season)
ONE would think that after a historic season that ultimately fell short in the end, Lyceum’s going to make a few tweaks with their mindset heading into the NCAA Season 94.
But coach Topex Robinson, who preached about love, respect and, trust for much of last season, isn’t about to stop preaching those things as they look to go all the way this time.
“Again, our mindset is obviously always to make sure that we’re doing the right things. It’s not gonna be a guarantee na it’s gonna be a historic season again for us. It’s not even gonna guarantee that we’re gonna be in the Finals, but what’s important for us is we continue what we’ve started, building a program that will help these players have a better future,” said Robinson.
“It’s always about making sure that we grow as a group through adversities. Kumbaga we always have to remember na there’s always gonna be a mountain na we have to climb,” he added. “It’s gonna be a hard and grueling process to go there to go to the mountain and it’s gonna take all of us helping each other to get to that peak,” he added.
All those inspirational talks aside, the Pirates will certainly head into the season as one of the favorites.
Reigning league MVP CJ Perez leads the almost intact group from last season’s finalists alongside the Marcelino twins in JC and JV, towering foreign reinforcement Mike Nzeusseu, and do-it-all forward MJ Ayaay.
Learning from the heartbreaking loss to the San Beda Red Lions last season – which had the whole team in tears, Robinson included - the Pirates know that they’re only gonna get better.
“There’s so much potential on this team. I think the lessons that we’ve learned just made us a better group. Adversities create character and we get to be in the situation because after that season with us, we won championships also,” said Robinson who won the D-League and the PCCL title with the same group of players after that defeat.
“It’s just a testament on you have to stick on what works for you and it’s about trusting each other, and making sure if we lose, I’m gonna be the one to be blamed.”
While their eyes are set on finally winning one for the Pirates, Robinson insists that they are not totally fixated on that goal.
Sure, winning the NCAA championship is an amazing reward for the hardwork that Robinson and the management have put in all throughout these years, but for Robinson – the real meat comes with the relationship and the bond that they have created throughout this journey.
“We don’t really look at the metric. The vision for us is way beyond the season, way beyond season 94. It’s about building the relationship. We want to make sure we take care of each other. Whether we like it or not, we’re gonna be bonded for the rest of our lives,” said Robinson.
“That’s more important for me as a coach, to be a father to these players and making sure that it’s not just about their experience in LPU or with me as coach and player, but more so as father and son.”