WITH four of his players still undecided whether they will stay or join the PBA Draft and having taken over the helm at Lyceum only last October, one would think that Pirates coach Jeff Perlas is feeling uneasy these days.
Well, think again.
Perlas said he will back whatever decision veterans Reymar Caduyac, Jayson David, Rhanzelle Yong, and Niño Ibañez come up with, even if it means foregoing their final year with Lyceum.
“As of now, yes, they’re staying, but we never know. We are ready in case they decide to join the Draft,” Perlas told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday. “We will support them.”
After two straight finals stints in 2017 and 2018, the Pirates finished with a 13-5 record, good for second, after the elimination round in the last NCAA cage wars but lost to eventual champion Letran in their stepladder semifinal battle.
The Intramuros-based crew lost 6-foot-6 Cameroonian import Mike Harry Nzeusseu, forwards Ralph Tansingco and Jeff Santos, and guard Spencer Pretta due to graduation.
Twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino, who were both drafted in the pro league by Alaska and Phoenix, respectively, also chose not to play their fifth and final year for Lyceum.
If they stay, Caduyac, David, and Ibañez, along with guard Renzo Navarro, are expected to lead the Pirates’ bid to win its first title since joining the league in 2011.
Among the prized recruits of Lyceum are Gilas Pilipinas Youth member Mac Guadana along with fellow Junior Pirate standout John Barba, high-scoring wingman John Bravo of First City Providential College, and former Letran Squire Shawn Umali.
Perlas, who replaced Topex Robinson, said developing rapport with his charges and his assistant coaches is one of the keys in their rebuilding process.
“We started the new year with a group discussion about establishing the right culture since there are a lot of new players, about leadership and commitment and also their expectations from us, coaches,” Perlas said.
“Part of my program this year is I want to establish an open communication with my players and coaches because that will be crucial moving forward.”
Even with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Perlas is working hard to recruit players.
“We started our recruitment last year even during the pandemic. One of our assistant coaches posted on Facebook for online tryouts,” Perlas said.
“They are required to submit their credentials and game highlights, then from there we evaluated them and there were about 500 to 700 submitted videos.”
Perlas, 43, admitted recruiting blue-chip players is hard. He will just play with the cards he has.
“It’s really hard to compete against well-funded teams and UAAP teams so most blue-chip players prefer transferring to UAAP schools,” he said.
“But for us we are more focused on players who are more willing to grow with us and share the same beliefs which we value so much.”