EXPECT San Sebastian’s rookies to draw more attention as the Golden Stags seek the solo leadership in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday when they collide with Jose Rizal University at The Arena in San Juan.
The veteran Stags took the spotlight in the thrilling 85-83 victory over Letran last Saturday when Jamil Ortuoste buried the go-ahead triple with less than 20 seconds left.
But lost in the din of the sophomore Ortuoste’s offensive heroics was Rhanzelle Yong’s defensive stop that preserved the Stags’ win where the rookie intercepted Mark Cruz’s pass in the Knights final possession.
That capped off a solid outing for the nephew of former King Stag and now San Mig Coffee rookie Ian Sangalang after almost recording a double-double with nine points and nine boards along with two assists, one steal, and zero turnovers in 24 minutes as the Stags’ starting power forward.
Michael Calisaan, Yong’s teammate with the Staglets and fellow mythical team member, also made a solid contribution with six points on two triples, two boards, and one block in 14 minutes in his own seniors debut.
Stags coach Topex Robinson was hardly surprised with the homegrown players’ showing, even expecting more from them in their 2 p.m. encounter with the Heavy Bombers, who look to barge into the win column after surrendering a 49-57 decision to defending champion San Beda also on opening day.
“So much is expected from them and they know it,” Robinson said. “I’m not considering them rookies, because they’ve really blossomed in the juniors division. The only thing that makes them rookies is that they’re in their first years.”
“They might be taking a backseat and learn from the system we run here, but pretty much the same is their responsibility,” the Stags mentor added.
Jerick Fabian, another standout rookie, also provided instant offense with seven points in just 10 minutes of play.
While the greenhorn Stags’ shone, their JRU counterparts are still looking to make their mark after disappointing debuts.
Although Ghanaian slotman Razak Abdul Wahab had 11 rebounds and six points, fellow touted freshman Tey Teodoro floundered with two points in seven minutes against the Red Lions.
College of St. Benilde and Emilio Aguinaldo College face off at 12 p.m. as they aim to start their bid to end a long Final Four drought on a positive note.