LYCEUM players admitted the recent departure of Aziz Mbomiko and Guy Mbida is going to be a heavy blow to the Pirates campaign in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Eager to show they deserve to become regular members in the country’s oldest collegiate league, the Pirates appeared poised to achieve their goal with a much improved lineup led by the Cameroonians this season.
But the foreigners were dropped from the squad before Season 90 even started after a disagreement over “demands.”
And the Pirates evidently missed their presence in their opening game of the season, an 80-93 loss to Arellano on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
“Both ends of the court malaking kawalan sila,” Pirates star guard Dexter Zamora said. “Si Aziz, isa sa mga leaders, dahil sa kanya na-mo-motivate kami dumepensa.”
Without Mbomiko and Mbida, rookie big man Joseph Gabayni was thrust into a bigger role. And the 6-foot-4 slotman didn’t disappoint as he registered eight points, 11 boards, and five blocks in 27 minutes.
“Pero nahirapan rin ako mag-adjust kasi I’ve been playing the five all the time kasi ako lang yung big man na kaya maglaro ng five eh,” Gabayni admitted.
“Nung nawala sila (Cameroonian forwards), sumabog kami,” Gabayni added. “Kailangan namin mag-adjust (as a team) ulit.”
Still, Zamora still saw positives from the loss against the Chiefs as the 11-man Pirates managed to build and a keep a cushion until late in their third quarter, where Arellano turned the game around.
“Nakikita ko na kaya naman ng team manalo. Yung nga lang kinapos kami,” said Zamora, who had 13 points, five assists, and three boards.
“Lahat dapat kami mag-step up dahil nawala yung dalawa,” the heady playmaker added. “Syempre hindi naman kaya ng isang tao lang yan eh. Kailangan team pa rin kami.”