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    NCAA PREVIEW: Lyceum Pirates keen to prove they belong in final probationary year

    Jun 23, 2014

    [Second of a series]

    2013 finish: tied with Arellano in sixth spot (8-10 win-loss); missed Final Four

    Key losses: Arwin Azores, Mark Francisco

    Key additions: Joseph Gabayni, Guy Mbida, Rhoel Maconocido

    Key holdovers: Dexter Zamora, Shane Ko, Aziz Mbomiko, Wilson Baltazar, Tirso Lesmoras Jr., Jeremiah Taladua

    CAN the giant killer emerge as one of the giants this time?

    An underdog that pulled off upsets once in a while last season of the NCAA, Lyceum is hoping to earn a loftier tag as a contender this year.

    The Pirates were the only non-Final Four squad to beat all semifinalists at least once and one of just three teams to knock down mighty San Beda in the eliminations last season.

    Now, the Intramuros-based cagers are eager to show they deserve to be a regular member in the league, aiming for no less than a Final Four finish in their final probationary year in the country’s oldest collegiate league.

    “Four years of existence is enough to ambition a Final Four status,” said Pirates coach Bonnie Tan, whose squad ruled minor leagues before deciding to join the big boys of the NCAA. “It’s a challenge for us.”

    It seems the Pirates have the pieces to accomplish their mission.

    Literally, the Pirates have turned ihto “giants” with the addition of four rookie big men that stand at least 6-4, including former University of Santo Tomas high school stalwart Joseph Gabayni and Guy Mbida, the squad’s second Cameroonian standout after Aziz Mbomiko.

    “Pag dating sa height, medyo palaban na tayo,” Tan said.

    Continue reading below ↓

    But the Pirates' offense still revolves around their prolific guards, bannered by of Dexter Zamora and Shane Ko, who will now joined by another top recruit in College of St. Benilde transferee Rhoel Maconocido, while wingman Wilson Baltazar appears poised for a breakout year in his second season.

    The Pirates have also upgraded outside their playing roster with the entry of former PBA and UAAP mentor Glenn Capacio, who will serve as Tan’s chief deputy and bolster a coaching staff that already has Alfrancis Chua as consultant.

    Chua, who rekindled the never-say-die attitude to Barangay Ginebra last year as coach and now acts as the Kings’ governor in the PBA, tries to continue to infuse the same brand of basketball to the Pirates.

    “Bago kami talunin ng kalaban, duduguin muna sila,” Chua said.

    The Pirates finished last season on a bright note by winning their last four assignments to eventually notch a record eight wins. They continued their solid run in the preseason as they finished above .500 (4-3 win-loss) in the Filoil Flying V Cup.

    “Last year, we just wanted to overachieve," Tan said. "This year, wala naman ibang pwedeng sabihin kundi Final Four."

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