IF there’s one man at Letran who could inspire the Knights in their hopes of extending the NCAA men’s basketball Finals to a deciding game against San Beda, it’s former star player Ronjay Enrile, who’s been there and done that in terms of championship experience.
The Knights assistant coach was the star of the 2003 team that captured the crown in Season 79 when the Intramuros-based squad defeated San Sebastian in the title series, 2-1.
The championship proved to be the second to the last for Letran, with the other coming in 2005.
In hopes of breaking the title drought, the 31-year-old Enrile wants the current crop of Letran players to display the same passion they did in the elimination round that saw them win 14 of 18 games to enter the Final Four as the second seed team carrying a twice-to-beat advantage.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanila na just play the game they have been playing all throughout the season kasi parerhas lang naman yan. Meron at stake lang ngayon,” Enrile told the Knights, who dispatched San Sebastian in the Final Four.
Like in 2003 when the team had Enrile, Boyet Bautista, Aaron Aban, Eric Rodriguez, and Jonathan Aldave as stalwarts and Louie Alas as coach, the Knights also have a star-studded cast this season led by MVP Raymond Almazan, Mark Cruz, Kevin Racal, and Rey Nambatac.
Enrile wants this latest batch of Knights to play with more fire come Game Two of the Finals against San Beda on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Hindi ka pwede mag -relax. Pag may loose balls dyan, kung kailangan mag-dive, mag-dive ka na. Mga simple things na kailangan talaga para makuha `yung championship,” said Enrile, who was named Finals MVP in 2003.
Enrile, who chose to forego his final playing year in 2005 in favor of a pro career that saw him emerge as the 17th overall pick by Coca-Cola in the 2006 Draft, believes fellow scoring point guard Cruz will be the barometer of the Knights’ success.
“I can see myself sa kanya,” Enrile said of the small-sized but big-hearted point guard. “Ang nagkaiba lang ngayon, nasa likod na ako at nagsasabi sa kanya.”