LAUNCHING the 96th NCAA basketball tournament later this year, or next year as planned by league officials, is just fine for Jose Rizal U coach Louie Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who is set to call the shots for the Heavy Bombers for the second year, said the NCAA cage wars should push through so players and fans can look forward to something positive amidst the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
“Para sa akin ay importante na matuloy iyong season regardless this year or next year. Malaking bagay iyan for the players and the fans,” Gonzalez told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“Iba pa din kasi iyong feeling that you are looking forward to something good,” he added.
The Heavy Bombers wound up with a 5-13 record in Gonzalez’s first season with the Shaw Boulevard-based crew.
With the league’s ban on foreign players taking effect in the 96th season, Gonzalez, who called the shots for La Salle in the UAAP in 2018, is convinced JRU can improve on its eighth-place finish last year.
“Excited ako kasi wala ng imports next season, magkakaroon na ng balance iyong liga and locals will be able to showcase their talents at sa kanila ang spotlight,” said Gonzalez, also the president of the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines and new tactician of the Muntinlupa Cagers-Angelis Resort in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, which has recently been canceled.
“I am grateful to the school especially to Mr. Paul Supan (JRU athletic director and Management Committee member) and boss Vincent (Fabella, JRU president), freehand talaga, patience and trust to establish ang sistema ko. We still have a young but promising team and we are looking forward na mag-compete this coming season lalo na we are given a full-year to prepare. Malaki ang pool of players so madami talagang pagpipilian,” he said.
The likes of wingman gunner Agem Miranda, forwards Marwin Dionisio and John Amores, and guard Ry Dela Rosa are expected to lead the Bombers’ charge along with forward EJ Agbong and playmaker Jason Solis, who both transferred from Letran, and another new addition in forward Paolo Quiminales from Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology.
JRU has what it takes, according to Gonzalez, who won a title as deputy to Aldin Ayo at Letran in 2015 and at the Green Archers’ side in 2016.
“After a year, matured na sila, maganda development nila, iyong line-up kasi last year is intact for the next three years, iyong core, four years pa,” Gonzalez said.
“Then we have new additions in EJ Agbong and Jason Celis from Letran and Paolo Quiminales.”
Despite the government-imposed general community quarantine to curb the spread of the virus, Gonzalez said his charges are on their toes in their bid to win their first crown since 1972 behind pro league legend Philip Cezar.
JRU last advanced to the Final Four in 2017 under then strategist and pro league great Vergel Meneses.
“Naka-monitor naman ang lahat, we want as much as possible to get a hold of them at hindi magpabaya in terms of their physical and mental conditions. We send home work out plans then we monitor them. Virtual in and virtual out because they need to video themselves during workouts and they send it to our group message chat,” Gonzalez said.
“We also send them video clips and play animations as well para ma-refresh sila sa mga discipline and schemes tapos every two weeks is team meetings via Zoom. Okay naman ang compliance nila and everybody is looking forward to getting back.”