WHAT does San Sebastian College playmaker RK Ilagan intend to do in his swan song with the team?
His mission in the 96th NCAA basketball tournament is simple: exit in a blaze of glory and victory.
“Para sa akin sobrang gigil (to play), sana nga po talaga hindi na nagkaroon ng COVID-19 (pandemic) kasi ito na iyong last chance ko na patunayan na kaya kong umakyat ng pro.
Kung ano iyong nangyayari sa atin ngayon dito, sana po matapos na,” Ilagan said in The Prospects podcast.
“Dalawa po kaming graduating sa team namin, si JM Calma po iyong isa. So, kami pong dalawa nag-u-usap na magtulungan po kaming dalawa to lead iyong team namin kasi iyon nga, medyo bata iyong team namin ngayon kasi wala na si (Allyn) Bulanadi and (Alvin) Capobres po, sila po talaga iyong leaders namin,” he added.
With the lingering health risks and uncertainties posed by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA is eyeing to launch its 96th season early next year.
Metro Manila has transitioned into the less strict general community quarantine last June 1 and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases gave the nod for the PBA and PFL teams to resume training last Friday.
Recreational basketball games, however, remain prohibited under GCQ to curb the spread of the lethal coronavirus disease. The government’s green light was only for pro basketball and football.
The Golden Stags finished the elimination round with an 11-7 record for fourth in the last NCAA cage wars but were foiled by eventual champions Letran in their stepladder semifinal duel.
The 5-foot-8 Ilagan averaged 14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists last season, while big man JM Calma, also a graduating player, was good for 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
Without prolific forward Allyn Bulanadi, who was tabbed by Alaska in the special Gilas draft last December, and Alvin Capobres, who was picked by Magnolia in the pro league, Ilagan said he and the 6-foot-5 Calma will be counted upon not only to deliver the goods but to also lead the upstart Recto-based crew.
“Kung ano lang po iyong ginawa nila Allyn (Bulanadi) noon, kung paano kami nila i-lead noong graduating sila, ganoon lang po iyong gagawin namin,” said Ilagan.
“Kung kaya po naming higitan, sabi po namin sa sarili namin gawin natin para sa team, para sa community namin kasi matagal na pong hindi nagcha-champion ang team namin.”
Aside from Ilagan and Calma, guards Itchie Altamirano and Alex Desoyo are expected to anchor San Sebastian’s charge.
The Stags, then 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.