AFTER a poor showing last year, host Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals are aiming for redemption in the 91st season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament set to start on June 27 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Mapua coach Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) legend Atoy Co expressed confidence that the Cardinals, which finished 10th place last year, can pull off a big comeback this year through the prowess of veteran players Josan Nimes, Mark Brana and Andretti Stevens. He also said that African player Allwell Oraeme can beef up the team’s defense.
“This team will be stronger than last year so I’m a little optimistic of our chance this season,” said Co in Filipino.
Nimes and Stevens were sidelined last year because of injuries while Brana missed the entire season last year to complete his academic requirements.
Co, one of the 25 greats inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame, credited Nimes for their tight offense while Stevens adds muscles to their counterattacks, and Brana could provide accurate shooting. Oraeme, on the other hand, can give big men like San Beda’s 6’8 center Nigerian Ola Adeogun a tight battle in the slot.
Besides the four players, Mapua will also lean on talented CJ Isit, Ezekiel Biteng, Raphael Layug and Justin Serrano, all veterans from last year’s campaign.
“We’ve learned a lot from the pre-season and we did well in some of the tournaments we’ve participated,” said Co, who is hoping to steer the school to its first title since winning it for the last time 24 years ago.