Knights brace for defense

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    NEARLY a year after ending San Beda University’s reign in the NCAA, defending champion Letran is bracing for its title-retention bid.

    Knights coach Bonnie Tan likes his squad’s chances to pull off back-to-back title wins, as long as they stay in shape and are healthy.

    “Kapag chances ang pag-uusapan, the Letran Knights’ chances are higher compared to last year if the players are all in shape and healthy,” Tan told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.

    “We were just lucky and blessed (last season),” he added.

    Playing all-Filipino throughout, Letran finished with a 12-6 record for third after the elimination round and hurdled No. 4 San Sebastian College and fancied second-ranked Lyceum in the stepladder semifinals.

    The Knights, with the likes of ace playmaker Fran Yu along with gunner Jerrick Balanza, guard Bonbon Batiller, and big men Renato Ular and Larry Muyang leading the way, did what seemed like the improbable, dethroning the heavily-favored Red Lions for their first title since 2015 and 18th overall.

    Tan, who replaced Jeff Napa at the helm of the Knights early last year, said his team is in no hurry to return to the gym despite the release of the health and safety guidelines for the resumption of collegiate team practice last Oct. 26.

    Actual games need a greenlight from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    “(It’s) good news for all collegiate leagues but at the same time (we’re) a little worried about the well-being of all the student athletes. It will be a big advantage for the team who can start practicing first or early,” Tan, also the team manager of NorthPort in the PBA, explained.

    “With regards to our team, we were advised to wait for the vaccines or face-to-face schooling to start before we can resume our team practice even if the IATF already gave the go-signal.”

    The NCAA intends to launch its new season, set to be hosted by Letran, early next year.

    High-flying forward Rhenz Abando, guard Brent Paraiso, and big man Ira Bataller moved to Letran from University of Santo Tomas last September amid the Growling Tigers and former strategist Aldin Ayo’s Sorsogon bubble controversy.

    Abando and Bataller can still suit up for three seasons for Letran, while Paraiso is still eligible to play for two more years.