The Letran Knights may not be the strongest team on paper, but their mindset is simple every time they step on the floor:
Dare opposing teams to score against them.
Ever since Aldin Ayo took over the coaching chores for the Intramuros squad, defense has been the focal point of practices and it shows when they take to the floor.
The Knights have made it difficult for all of their opponents offensively as they move with cohesion on the defensive end, forcing turnovers, securing boards, generating second chance opportunities from hustle, disrupting the opposing offensive flow.
That conscious attempt to exert effort is what’s keeping the Knights on a surprising tear.
“Yung defense talaga ang pinagbago since si coach Aldin (Ayo) ang nag-handle. Yung disiplina namin nagsisimula sa depensa,” veteran Kevin Racal said.
“Sinasabi niya lagi na hindi kami malakas at talented na team pero pag-effortan lang sa depensa kasi doon talaga kami humuhugot ng opensa.”
The Knights remain unblemished after taking down the Arellano Chiefs, another Final Four team from last year, 77-71 on Friday.
Letran generated 15 second chance points from 27 offensive boards, and also forced 24 turnovers leading to 17 points.
Racal added that the effort the squad showed against the Chiefs was overwhelming, and helped propel them to a 6-0 card.
“Sobra yung effort namin kanina. Ang lalaki ng kalaban namin. Sabi ni coach malalaki yan pero kung dadaanin sa effort, makukuha natin yan,” Racal said afterwards.
“Malaki ang depensa para sa amin sa (later part) ng eliminations. Tatrabahuhin na namin. Lahat ng team kami ang gustong talunin dahil wala pa kaming talo so pinaghahandaan lang namin.”
Ayo puts foremost priority on defense during the Knights’ practice sessions, carrying the belief that effort would lead Letran to success.
“Kung ano yung ginagawa namin dito, yun rin ang ginagawa namin sa practice. Yung fullcourt trap hanggang matapos (ang laro), yun talaga. Ang pinakamarami talagang ginagawa (sa practice) ay depensa,” Racal said.