SAN Sebastian standout Lorenzo Navarro sees a wide-open battle in this year’s NCAA juniors basketball division set to open on Sunday at the San Juan Gym.
Navarro, one of three NCAA players who will play for the Philippines in the Fiba Under-17 World Championship this year, said almost all teams lost several key players, which, in turn, leveled the playing field for Season 90.
The Staglets weren’t spared by the graduation of top players with Michael Calisaan, Rhanzelle Yong, Ryan Costelo, among others joining the senior team this year.
“Nakita na rin po namin ‘yung ibang kalaban namin. Nakita rin namin na sabay-sabay kami nawalan ng players. Tingin ko, etong season na 'to, walang mag-dodominate,” said Navarro when asked by Spin.ph for his assessment of this season.
San Beda has dominated the NCAA juniors division by winning the title for the past five seasons, and surpassing the ‘four-peat’ of San Sebastian from 2005 to 2008.
San Sebastian, however, beat San Beda in the Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) title game in triple overtime. In that game, Navarro had a triple-double of 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists in the 108-102 victory over the Red Cubs.
The 5-7 Navarro sees a bright chance this year for the Staglets, who will be out to bounce back after missing the finals in 2013 despite finishing second at the end of the elimination round.
“Pero nasa sa amin pa rin ‘yun,” said the high school senior, whose team opens the season against Letran. “Kung sino ‘yung mas willing at mas gustong manalo, ‘yun ‘yung mananalo this season.
“Siyempre, mas lumaki ‘yung role ko and responsibility ko. Last season, ako yata ‘yung pinakabata sa team. Ngayon na wala na sila, ako naman ‘yung kailangan na nag-guguide ngayon dahil isa na ako sa veterans sa team,” Navarro added.
Meanwhile, Navarro looks forward to playing for the national team in the World Championship this August.
The Fiba world tilt will be played from August 8 to 16, which will coincide with the NCAA tournament. Navarro, though, will only miss one game as he takes on a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
“Siyempre, masaya and excited kasi hindi lahat ng ka-age ko, nabibigyan ng opportunity na makapaglaro doon at ma-experience na makukuha doon,” said Navarro, who will be joined by fellow NCAA players Micheal Dela Cruz and Carlo Abadeza of La Salle Greenhills in the national youth team.
The Philippines gained a spot in the world tilt by finishing second to China in the 2013 Fiba-Asia Under-16 Championship, an experience that Navarro cherishes.
“First time ako makalaban ‘yung ganung kalalaki na ka-age ko at ganoon kalaki ang at stake,” said the 17-year-old while mentioning playing against a 6-3 point guard from China. “Malaki ‘yung naitulong sa character sa laro ko. Medyo nag-mature ako dahil doon.”
Navarro said the team is not promising anything for the U-17 worlds with the squad bracketed with powerhouse United States, Greece, and Angola.
“Hindi ko pa po masasabi kasi hindi pa namin nakikita ‘yung kalaban namin. Sa Fiba-Asia, wala rin naman kaming in-expect, wala ring expectations sa amin, pero naglaro din kami with all our hearts. Wala munang expectations, basta ready lang,” said Navarro.