LETRAN, still shaken after an ambush on one of its players, tries to keep focus when it takes on Arellano University on Thursday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Five days after back-up point guard Franz Dysam was shot by unidentified gunmen in an ambush that led to the death of his partner, Joan Sordan, the Knights face the Chiefs at 4 p.m. hoping to keep their hold of the top spot and their unbeaten streak (5-0).
Knights coach Caloy Garcia said Dysam is most probably out for the rest of the season after sustaining six gunshot wounds.
And with a depleted point-guard rotation at his disposal, Garcia said he will have to turn to some of his wingmen who are expected to take a more active role in the playmaking chores.
“Isang position na critical sa akin `yung point guard kasi siya nagdi-dikta ng laro, but the players are up to the challenge,” Garcia said.
Among them are rookie Rey Nambatac, McJour Luib, and Jon Tambelling, aside from starter Mark Cruz, the remaining natural point guard in the team.
Although he admitted Dysam will be a loss, Cruz is confident his teammates can step up, starting in the game against the Chiefs.
“Malaking bagay talaga si Franz, kahit hindi sa offensive aspect, `yung defense niya nandun,” Cruz admitted to Spin.ph after practice on Wednesday afternoon. “Siguro mas ga-grabe yung role ko, pero nandyan naman teammates ko para tulungan ko.”
Nambatac has been in the situation before, having played point guard at times for the Squires in the past.
“Nung nalaman ko `yung balita tungkol kay Dysam, pumasok na agad sa isip ko na parang mag-stick na talaga ako sa point guard,” Nambatac said. “Para sa akin naman, okay lang naman din kasi kahit papaano na-handle ko rin naman `yung position na yun for almost four years.”
Nambatac and the rest of the Knights’ guards will be up against capable counterparts in Nard Pinto and Jiovani Jalalon.
Pinto, the playmaker from Davao, finally broke out of his slump last Thursday when he had 17 points, five boards, and four assists, and two steals against Perpetual Help in a game that, however, ended up in a 73-66 loss for Arellano.
The defeat was the third in five games for the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, College of St. Benilde tries to get over the hump as it faces Lyceum in the nightcap at 6 p.m.
The Blazers, still winless after five starts, take on a Pirates side that is in the middle of the pack with a 2-3 win-loss card.