LYCEUM’s campaign in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament took a stunning turn even before it could begin as Aziz Mbomiko and Guy Mbida have been abruptly cut from the squad, forcing the Pirates to play with an all-Filipino lineup throughout Season 90.
Pirates coach Bonnie Tan broke the news to Spin.ph late Sunday, saying team management has decided to drop the Cameroonians from the 14-man roster the last minute after the foreign students and the school failed to find a compromise on certain “principles,” which Tan initially refused to detail.
“Principle ng player tapos principle ng school, so medyo hindi lang nag-meet sa gitna,” Tan said.
Since the disagreement, Mbomiko and Mbida have been absent from team activities — during the pep rally last Monday and the two-day team building session in Nasugbu, Batangas starting Tuesday.
“So talagang may senyales na. Siguro under protest sila,” Tan said. “So nangyari ito (management decision) actually two days ago, ngayon lang talaga na-finalize.”
Asked to expound on the principles disagreed upon, Tan cited certain “demands” that taller, touted foreign recruits usually get from other schools that Mbida and Mbomiko are trying to negotiate with Lyceum.
“Foreign players tend to compare themselves to other foreign players, pero syempre, walk-in lang 'yan, at six-two lang sila, but they’re comparing themselves sa mga mas malaki sa kanila,” Tan said.
The Pirates appeared to have a harmonious relationship last season with Mbomiko, the school’s first-ever foreign recruit.
The 23-year-old Cameroonian anchored the Pirates’ defense in his rookie year last season where he led the squad in rebounding (7.6) and steals (1.8). He even delivered offensively, emerging as the team’s second-leading scorer (12.3 points).
“Aziz performed well last season, pero hindi ko lang sure kung ma-to-tolerate ng school na kahit mag-perform siya ng maganda, eh walk-in lang siya, at six-three lang siya … Syempre may limitations naman yung institution kung hanggang saan lang kayang i-offer.”
A younger version of Mbomiko, Mbida, 17, averaged 12.8 points, 6.8 boards, and 1.5 assists in the Filoil Flying V preseason tournament.
“Nakakalungkot lang kasi player mo sila, syempre you have to protect your player, pero minsan you have to hear the side of the institution,” Tan said. “They (management) will stand by the principles of the school, hindi yung mag-a-adjust tayo sa isa o dalawang tao lang.”
Tan, however, kept the door open for the two.
“Naka-lineup pa rin sila, eligible, pero wala pang talks (about their return). Pero syempre, anything can happen sa future.”
The development leaves the Pirates with just 11 players available for Monday’s opening game against Arellano with guard Jeremiah Taladua still recovering from a viral infection. The guard had been confined in a hospital, but was discharged on Sunday.
“Kapos na kapos na ako sa player,” Tan said.
The Cameroonians’ absence will particularly force freshmen, including promising big man Joseph Gabayni, to step up right away.
“Their (Cameroonians’) responsibilities will now be put sa rookies natin na inexperienced pa. so yung mga guards natin, ewan ko lang kung makagawa ng magic,” Tan said, referring to backcourt duo Dexter Zamora and Shane Ko, as well as Rhoel Maconocido.