Stags coach stays optimistic

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    SAN Sebastian College coach Egay Macaraya is not losing hope despite the cloud of uncertainty hounding the 96th NCAA basketball tourney.

    “I am not losing hope that the NCAA will push through with its 96th season this May,” Macaraya told Malaya-Business Insight.

    “Everybody needs a break, and we have to start something,” he added.

    The country’s oldest collegiate league is pushing through with its 96th season with online and hybrid events despite the big challenges posed by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.

    Set to be hosted by Letran, the new season is set to get going virtually in the first week of May.

    Macaraya said the NCAA can start with just the virtual events, while other sports can be held once the players get vaccinated.

    “It could be events that don’t require social distancing or face-to-face interaction,” Macaraya said. “Other sports could start later when vaccine is available for everyone.”

    Among the options the NCAA considered was holding its season in a bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

    The plan was called off due to the whopping P40 million estimated cost and the absence of the green light from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, however.

    The remainder of the 95th season was scrapped in March last year at the start of the government-imposed lockdown to curb the contagion.

    Indoor volleyball, football, lawn tennis, soft tennis, track and field, beach volleyball, and cheerleading were cancelled last season.

    The Commission on Higher Education released the safety and health guidelines for the resumption of varsity training last October. Five months after, the collegiate leagues are still waiting for the go-signal from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    In December last year, the Philippine Sports Commission also crafted guidelines for the conduct of collegiate tournaments.

    The Stags wound up with an 11-7 card to advance to the Final Four as the fourth-ranked squad in 2019.

    San Sebastian lost to eventual champion Letran in their stepladder semifinal battle, however.

    Gone for the Recto-based crew are former stars Allyn Bulanadi and RK Ilagan, who both turned pro.

    The Stags are expected to be led by energetic big man JM Calma next season.

    San Sebastian, with former PBA MVP Ato Agustin calling the shots, last reached the Promised Land in 2009 behind the likes of Jimbo Aquino, Pamboy Raymundo, Ronald Pascual, and now pros Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang.