[Fourth of a series]
2013 finish: third place (11-7 win-loss); lost to Letran in Final Four
Key loss: Leo de Vera
Key additions: Rhanzelle Yong, Michael Calisaan, Jerick Fabian, Ivan Camasura
Key holdovers: C-Jay Perez, Jamil Ortuoste, Jovit dela Cruz, Bradwyn Guinto
SAN Sebastian’s “bunch of no-namers” has surely made themselves known by now.
And after a year of identity searching in the post-'Pinatubo Trio' era, the Golden Stags hope to continue to establish their emerging presence in Season 90 of the NCAA.
The departure of Kapampangan stars Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang, and Ronald Pascual was supposed to leave the Stags in a rebuilding process, but the team managed to have a smooth transition behind a solid cast of impressive rookies.
Jamil Ortuoste, C-Jay Perez, Bradwyn Guinto, and Leo de Vera became revelations in their first year and conspired with veteran Jovit dela Cruz in leading the Stags to a Final Four finish.
But Stags coach Topex Robinson continues to refuse to tag his standouts as stars that can shine as brightly as Abueva and Co.
“Nobody is still entitled on this team,” Robinson insisted in a chat with Spin.ph. “We don’t look for certain players to win us games. It still has to be a collective effort.”
But now a year together and with De Vera considered as the only major loss, the Stags are poised to sustain their gains this season.
“We just want to be grounded,” Robinson said. “It’s gonna be hard. Teams won’t take us for granted this time. They are not going to play us the way they did last season.”
“But we’re up to the challenge of playing at a higher level,” the fourth-year mentor was quick to add.
Expected to take major responsibilities right away are Rhanzelle Yong and Michael Calisaan, the former dynamic duo of San Sebastian’s junior team and two touted versatile forwards who will try to fill the void left by the one-and-done De Vera.
“We might be young, but we can’t make that an excuse for us not to perform at a very high level,” said Robinson, who has a total of eight rookies, including five from high school.
While conceding defending champion San Beda remains the team to beat, Robinson stressed the importance for San Sebastian to just keep growing as a team.
“We just want to improve each and every game. We cannot focus on San Beda or whoever there is, because we don’t have control of that. Ano `yung mayroon kaming control is how we’re going to perform as a team, the learning curves we have to go through, to better our performance last season.”