New Knights coach Jeff Napa looks forward to challenge
Rick Olivares ( - March 7, 2016 - 10:05pm

MANILA, Philippines – Jeff Napa has been named the new head coach of the Letran Knights. The 35-year-old former National University Bulldog, who has also coached his alma mater’s juniors team to three UAAP titles including the most recent Season 78 championship, is excited about his new undertaking.

“It is a blessing and an opportunity,” described Napa in a late night interview Monday night. “I am excited because college basketball is a different level in terms of play and coaching. I experienced this as a player and later as an assistant to Manny Dandan and Eric Altamirano (over at NU). I hope to bring my experiences and knowledge to help Letran.”

Napa was a part of NU’s first team to book a Final Four slot in 2001. He concluded his college playing days the next year after which he played in the now defunct Philippine Basketball League before being invited by Dandan to join him over in NU in 2005.

The move has the blessings of National University management and Napa will take his first look at his new team this coming Wednesday.

However, Napa won’t be leaving NU as he will stay with the juniors program albeit as consultant. His former Bulldogs teammate and long-time coaching assistant Chico Manabat will take over the Bullpups. Incidentally, Manabat will also join him on the sidelines with Letran.

“There will be no conflict since the NCAA is played in the first semester while the UAAP Juniors is in the second semester,” clarified Napa.

Napa is the second non-Letran alumnus to handle the team after Louie Alas who played for Adamson during his college days but led the Knights to three NCAA championships. The new coach is also following the incredible rookie stint of former Knights player Aldin Ayo, who skippered Letran to a memorable championship over six-peat seeking San Beda in the last NCAA tournament.

“This team isn’t last year’s team,” cautioned Napa. “Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal are no longer there. I know the other players — Rey Nambatac, (Jomari) Sollano, (McJour) Luib and a few others only by name. I need to get to know them as people and as players from a different perspective. I understand there are also some transferees and new players. It’s a different team with a new set of challenges. I am excited for these challenges."

The Knights have made a name for themselves as a full-court hustling and highly physical team, a style that has paid dividends for them in spite of not having the resources of college teams like Ateneo, La Salle, NU, or even NCAA foe, San Beda. But Napa doesn’t think this will be a problem. “The school has shown that it can still win in spite of that.”

Napa said that although he made a name for himself as a long range sniper during his playing days, he found his calling applying a rugged defense with the NU Bullpups.

“Some people even called us ’the bullies of the UAAP Juniors Division’ because of the way we played. I think the transition won’t be too difficult. But I am big on team chemistry and solidarity. That has been the key to our success in the UAAP. Hopefully, we can also continue Letran’s legacy of success and achievement. For me, it is a honor to be here," he said.

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