MANILA, Philippines - Lyceum and Emilio Aguinaldo are eyeing not just to do good in basketball but also in all other sports as the two bid for regular membership when the 90th NCAA season unfurls on June 28 at the MOA Arena in Pasay.
The Pirates and the Generals are coming off creditable performances last season, their best since entering the league severals years ago, with the former tied for sixth place with the Arellano U Chiefs and the latter ending up fifth.
Lyceum and EAC hope to use it as a springboard to bigger successes this year.
“We’re optimistic of our chances not just in basketball but in the other sports as well because we’ve recruited some good athletes for this year,” said Lyceum’s athletic director and Management Committee member Hercules Callanta.
The Generals will be fielding almost the same lineup that came one win short of advancing to the Final Four after winding up with a 10-8 (win-loss) record, their best performance since they were accepted as associate members five seasons ago.
EAC coach Gerald Esplana said they draw inspiration from their strong performance a season ago.
“The past few years were a great experience for us because we learned a lot of things,” said Esplana, a former PBA star. “Last year was the eye-opener because it showed us that we could compete against the best of them.”
Returning this year for the Generals are Cameroon’s Noube Happi, Jan Jamon, Igee King, John Tayongtong, Jack Arquero and Sidney Onwubere, all vital cogs in last year’s surprising run.
Esplana says they are eyeing no less than a Final Four spot this year but for them to achieve it, his team will need to double its efforts and beat or be at par with the best.
“Of course, we need to double our efforts and beat or compete against the best team, which is San Beda, for us to go where we want to go,” said Esplana.
And that is where Happi comes in as the 6-7 Cameroonian is one of the few players equipped to guard San Beda’s 6-8 Nigerian import Ola Adeogun.
“We need Cedric (Happi) to step up,” said Esplana.
The Pirates have also shored up their frontcourt, tapping a 6-5 Cameroonian in Mbida Essono to provide some relief to a smaller but scrappy Issah Mbomiko also from Cameroon.
Lyceum has also kept its backcourt troika of Shane Ko, Jeremiah Taladua and Wilson Baltazar, who should provide Essono and Mbomiko the support.
“If things work out as we planned, we’re looking at a Final Four finish,” said Lyceum mentor Bonnie Tan.