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    NCAA Preview: Letran looks good on paper, but chemistry not there yet

    Mar 14, 2022

    (Editor's note: This is the first of a series of team previews for NCAA Season 97.)

    WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE? 12-6, 3rd in the eliminations; beat San Sebastian and Lyceum in stepladder semis; beat San Beda, 2-1, in Finals to win championship

    WHO'S GONE? Jerrick Balanza, Larry Muyang, Bonbon Batiller, Ato Ular

    WHO'S BACK? Fran Yu, Jeo Ambohot, Allen Mina

    WHO'S NEW? Rhenz Abando, Brent Paraiso


    LETRAN, in a perfect world, would've gladly welcomed the favorites tag for the upcoming NCAA Season 97.

    Being the defending champions from two years ago and adding marquee players in a very busy offseason, the Knights looked a cinch to repeat.

    But that was the operative word - looked.

    Coach Bonnie Tan said that as much as odds may seem to be in their favor, it is anything but as almost two years of inactivity have completely changed the college basketball landscape.

    "Lahat dito rushed eh. Lahat shortcut," he said, lamenting how the Muralla side has been pressed for time to forge the basic factor for his team's success the last time out: chemistry.

    Continue reading below ↓

    Chemistry test

    "Kulang na kulang pa rin. Humahabol pa kami kasi ibang-iba 'yung performance ng players dito sa preparation namin. Kulang pa talaga sa jelling."


    NCAA Season 95 Finals MVP Fran Yu is expected to lead the charge for Letran, but pressure is on holdovers Jeo Ambohot, Allen Mina, King Caralipio, Kurt Reyson, Paolo Javillionar, and Mark Sangalang to fill the gaps left by its old leaders.

    Rhenz Abando and Brent Paraiso, the bluechip transferees the Knights got from University of Santo Tomas, still have to find their niche in the team's system, while Tan is still rushing his rookies Rafael Go and Andrey Guarino into maturity.

    Not really the look of a team aspiring to win back-to-back titles.


      But as difficult as the road is to a title repeat, it's nothing new to Tan who has found success with underdog teams at Lyceum and even the last time out at Letran, which had to climb the stepladder as the No. 3 seed on the way to the title.

      Continue reading below ↓

      "Sanay tayo na underdog. Di tayo naniniwala sa sinasabi na favorites tayo kasi kahit ako, sa pinapakita namin ngayon mahirap pa na isipin na kami yung llamado. On paper siguro, pero iba pa rin yung sa court eh," he said.

      "Pero again, we're the defending champions at expected tayo na lumaban. So we're focused on winning the championship and defending the crown no matter how tough the road will be."

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