Knights brace for attacks from Red Lions, other foes
The Letran Knights celebrate after shocking San Beda to win the NCAA men's basketball championship at the Mall of Asia Arena in November last year.
Jun Mendoza
Knights brace for attacks from Red Lions, other foes
Roy Luarca (Philstar.com) - September 23, 2020 - 4:19pm

MANILA, Philippines – From hunter to hunted.

That's the transformation the Letran Knights underwent in the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball competition.

Last season, they stalked the San Beda Red Lions throughout, finally cornering the runaway leaders in the homestretch to snatch the seniors crown from the 2016-2018 champions.

Now, however, the surprise factor is gone for the Knights.

In the NCAA Season 96, which is likely to start next year, Letran will be the primary target.

The Knights will be switching places with the Red Lions, who will lead the chasing pack also composed of the Lyceum Pirates, San Sebastian Golden Stags, Mapua Cardinals, Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, College of St. Benilde Blazers, Arellano Chiefs, Perpetual Help Altas, and Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals.

Knights coach Bonnie Tan is aware of the sudden shift in the teams' concentration and is making sure they will be well-armed to thwart attacks coming from different directions.

Though four mainstays are gone due to graduation, the Knights have become even stronger with the full support of Alfrancis Chua, the sports director of San Miguel Corp. and Letran's Special Assistant to the Rector for Sports Development.

Back to power Letran's title-retention drive are Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League veterans Larry Muyang (San Juan Knights) and Ato Ular (Marikina Shoemasters), last year's Finals MVP Fran Yu, Jeo Ambohot, Neil Guarino and Pao Javillonar.

Returning after MPBL stints with Zamboanga and Quezon City is Christian Fajarito.

High profile recruits are Diliman College's Joseph Brutas, who briefly saw action for the Mindoro Tamaraws in the MPBL, Kenny Rogers Rocacurva from Cebu Institute of Technology, and Jay Pangalanan from College of St. Benilde.

They have recruited capable rookies in 6-foot-9 Jimly Lantaya and 5-10 Jeff Mailim from National University, 6-4 Rafael Go from Chiang Kai Shek, 5-9 Yuri Kawamura from Perpetual Help, 6-5 Lloyd Oliva from UST, and 6-1 Dilcer Gaviola-from University of San Jose-Recoletos.

University of Santo Thomas transferees Rhenz Abando, Brent Paraiso and Ira Bataller will be serving one-year residency, assuring Letran of an even deeper bench in Season 97.

Height is the least of Tan's concern as he has seven tall players 6-5 in Lantaya, Pangalanan (6-9), Ambohot (6-7), Fajarito (6-6), Guarino (6-6), Muyang (6-5), and Oliva.

The Knights also boast the 6-4 Ular and the 6-3 Abando, both touted inside operators.

Yu, Brutas, and Kawamura can pile the points in a snap, giving Tan plenty of options to do with his roster.

As to the former Growling Tigers, Tan believes they will jell with their new teammates in no time.

After their gallant effort last year, the Knights know it's their turn to defend the fort from marauders.

KNIGHTS LETRAN NCAA
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