With the NCAA 93rd season basketball championship over, San Beda Red Lions, winner of the seniors title, and the vanquished, the Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates, go separate ways with the Mendiola-based hoopsters, according to coach Boyet Fernandez, going back to their studies in pursuit of a more steady future.
A for Lyceum mentor Topex Robinson, his Pirates intend to go back to the gym sooner than what everybody expects them to, what else, but resume preparations for next year’s cage wars.
The day after the Lions swept the Pirates in their best-of-three showdown to recapture the championship they lost three years ago, coach Boyet told media men he is ordering his charges to shift their focus on what they are in school for – education — which they will be needing after their athletic career is over.
With the exams set the first week of December Fernandez, who guided his Lions to the NCAA’s best 21st overall title, said his next job is to “check on how my players are doing on their studies because we’ve been focusing much of our times on basketball the last three weeks.”
Basketball, Fernandez said, “could be a very short career depending on a player’s health condition. Today one could be healthy, but tomorrow, maybe you don’t. So, kailangan pangalagaan natin ang kalusugan ng ating manlalaro. At tayong mga namumuno ang naatasang mangalaga sa kanila.”
Coach Topex, on the other hand, stressed he doesn’t want his Pirates to just sulk in the corner frustrated in defeat. “Tomorrow is day one of (NCAA) season 94. Our loss didn’t define us as a team. We know we’re gonna get better and I’m excited to what’s ahead of us. We’re gonna prepare early. I wanna join the PBA D-League. It’s something that I’m excited about.”
Unlike Robinson, Fernandez, hinted he might skip the PBA D-League in January to give his players more time to focus on their studies, which he said “ is also a requirement for a player to be included in the team pool, in the first place.”
Fernandez disclosed that in the NCAA, a player needs to pass the second semester to get to play in the next season. “If they don’t pass the second sem, they can’t play.”
Fernandez clarified though that everything depends on team sponsor, businessman-sportsman Manny V. Pangilinan, and head of the MVP GROUP of businesses. “If Boss MVP wants us to play in the PBA D-League, then we’ll play. But just the same, the player must take care of their schooling. As I have been telling them, it’s their future I care for.”
In case the decision is to play, Fernandez wants to field precisely, a school-based team so he could synchronize the participation with the Lions’ training and academic schedules even a he expressed concern with the possibility that his Lions would be left behind by rival teams that will play in the D-League.
Coach Boyet also noted the vast improvement of Lion Robert Bolick, hero of San Beda’s title conquest, whose improvement, he said, was gained from playing in the semi-pro league. Plan is also afoot to field the team to the Champions’ League, a tournament among the country’s collegiate champions, which will be revived next year.
For a team that could only manage to win only six games last year, Robinson said finishing second this season is already a big accomplishment for the Pirates who, fashioned out an unbeaten record 18-game victory streak in the elimination round. Nothing to be ashamed off really. Just fell short in the best-of-three championship playoff.
That undefeated elims mark brought the Pirates straight to the gold medal play besides giving CJ Perez the season MVP trophy. The runner up wind up, in fact, to many, was already a reason to celebrate, especially for a team billed only as a dark horse. Bringing home the bacon just wasn’t meant to be for LPU, which, as a first-timer in the finals still lacked the experience needed in the big stage play.
The best is yet to come, as Robinson, in fact, said of the school’s basketball program. “We have too much, indeed to be proud of and grateful for and we just have to continue doing what we’re supposed to do. What we’ve done inspired not a few and we’ll just have to do more to inspire more people. We’ve lit a fire and we must do everything to make the fire burning.”
“We’re excited for what’s gonna be, what’s ahead of us. I always tell the boys it’s just the tip of the iceberg for us. We still have many basketball games to play and so many people to inspire.” He said.