NCAA: No individual awards, no problem for Letran

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 14 2019 09:58 PM

The Letran Knights celebrate their win against the San Beda Red Lions in Game 1 of the NCAA finals held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – Not a single player from Colegio de San Juan de Letran made it to the Mythical Team in the NCAA Season 95 men's basketball tournament. 

Indeed, only one Knight will receive an individual award this year – sophomore guard Fran Yu, who will be named Most Improved Player after a tremendous campaign that saw him leap from No. 93 to No. 19 in the league's player rankings. 

In contrast, their opponent in the on-going best-of-3 Finals, San Beda University, put three players in the Mythical Team. Calvin Oftana, the Season 82 MVP, was joined by Evan Nelle and James Canlas in the select group, while their center, Donald Tankoua, will be honored as the league's Best Foreign Player as well.

"(They're) winning a lot of awards, Mythical Five ata, tatlo," Letran coach Bonnie Tan said of San Beda. "Hindi biro 'yun."

Yet it is Letran, not San Beda, who has a 1-0 lead in their finals series after the Knights pulled off a stunning 65-64 reversal of the Red Lions last Tuesday.

For Tan, not having any player in the Mythical Team is a non-issue, especially as they are now just one win away from reaching their goal – the Season 95 championship.

"Sa amin nga, sinasabi namin, wala tayong nakuhang awards, si Fran lang," said the coach. "Pero sa Mythical Five, wala tayong player na naka-receive ng Mythical Five."

"Sabi ko lang sa kanila, bigay na natin sa kanila 'yun, kunin na lang natin 'yung trophy. Sana, baka makuha natin," he added.

Letran skipper Jerrick Balanza is doing his best to remind his teammates of this mindset.

"Simula kami kasi buo kami eh. Tignan mo sa stats eh, 'di ba? Saka simula noong pumasok kami ng stepladder, wala na. Sinabi na namin na, give up na natin 'yung pride natin," he explained.

"Sabi ko, 'Kahit sinong mag-best player sa atin, okay lang basta nananalo tayo.' Kung best player si Fran, wala sa akin 'yun. Team kami eh," he stressed.

Balanza said that he and the Knights have come to terms with not winning any individual awards this year.

"May award ka nga, wala ka naman sa finals," he said. "Wala din. Bakasyon kayo."

The Knights can secure the NCAA title on Friday, when they play San Beda in Game 2 of the finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

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