MANILA, Philippines - The San Beda Lions will rely on a rookie coach and a couple of talented new recruits in their bid for a three-peat in the 88th NCAA basketball season this June.
Although limited to just six practices together, Ronnie Magsanoc, who replaced Frankie Lim last month, and the Lions meshed pretty solidly on their first game together with an emphatic victory over La Salle, 69-63, in last Saturday’s opener of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Pre-Season Premier Cup at The Arena in San Juan.
"We've six practices since I took over and in between that was the Lenten break so we haven't really got the time to practice together and know each other well," said Magsanoc. "It will be a long process and we will need cooperation and trust for us to get better."
Magsanoc, who played high school ball for San Beda before helping the University of the Philippines Maroons win their first and only UAAP title thus far in 1986, is pinning his hopes on Nigerian Ola Adeogun and Julius Armon to carry the fight for the Lions, who won five titles in the last six seasons.
Adeogun and Armon made a big impression as the two combined for 21 points, 17 rebounds and three assists and should be the heart and soul of a San Beda team looking to extend its reign.
But the two will have big shoes to fill as San Beda lost some of its key players like American Sudan Daniel, Dave Marcelo, Garvo Lanete, Jess Villahermosa and the Semerad brothers Dave and Anthony, who were vital cogs in the Lions' last two championship runs including a sweep in Season 86.
What’s left with San Beda were Rome dela Rosa, Jake Pascual, Kyle Pascual, Anjo Caram, Ryusei Koga, Baser Amer and Melo Lim.
"We have a solid system left by coach Frankie (Lim) and we will use that as a springboard to form a solid team," said Magsanoc. "We lost so many key players from last year's team but with Julius (Armon) and Ola (Adeogun) there, I'm pretty confident we'll be better."
First things first, Magsanoc, a member of the elite Greatest 25 Players in the PBA, wants his players to play tougher defense.
"Letran is huge and San Sebastian has more experienced players and the only way we can hurdle them is through our defense, that's what I will keep on telling my boys," he said.