On Thursday morning at Zark’s Burger on Taft Avenue , in their first public appearance as a team since the NCAA Season 93 Finals, the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates looked like a jolly bunch. But beyond the smiles on their faces because of the partnership they had just formed with the burger chain for the upcoming 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup, the effects of their devastating sweep at the hands of the eventual-NCAA Champions San Beda Red Lions could still be felt.
“It’s a new journey for us, we’re excited for the new partnership,” shared Pirates head coach Topex Robinson.
“Yung hindi namin na-complete nung Season 93, hopefully, ito yung continuation.”
Last November 16, the Pirates — a team that had swept the elimination round — were on the receiving end of a sweep that denied the school their first-ever NCAA crown. But in order to get over the hump, Robinson felt that they needed to experience what made the kingpins of the collegiate world become champions.
For him, joining the PBA D-League is the right step heading into that direction.
“We’ re trying to focus around the LPU core. It just so happens na we’re on a different playing field,” the young mentor added. “We’ll try to get better dito sa D-League. It’s a good opportunity for us as a team, and as a school, and for Zark’s Burger. The more opportunity for us to hone our skills, the better for everybody.
“We’re excited but it’s not redemption. It’s more on improving ourselves. We always try to get better whenever we have an opportunity.”
Headlining the squad is reigning NCAA MVP CJ Perez. Joining him are Mike Nzeusseu, Jeffrey Santos, Ralph Tansingco, Aldrich Liwag, Reymar Caduyac, Nino Ibanez, Jeric Serrano, Edcor Marata, Jayvee Marcelino, Jaycee Marcelino, Kim Cindo, Spencer Pretta, and Rhanzelle Yong.
Reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez could not hide his excitement over this journey, as he and the Pirates will test their mettle against players who are older and stronger than them.
“We are excited kasi bagong opportunity ito para sa amin and para sa LPU,” said Perez, who will play his last playing year in Season 94. “Parang mas exciting pa ito kaysa sa NCAA kasi PBA D-League na ito, semi-pro, so yung mga best amateurs nandito.
“Most of the teams there have ex-PBA players so yun ang goal namin which is to try to test the waters as far as the amateur or semi-pro basketball teams is concerned.”
Even with a huge chip on their shoulder this time around, Robinson remains steadfast that he won’t change a thing about how they approach the game.
“What’s important for us is the chemistry. Yung familiarity with each other and knowing kung ano yung pinanggagalingan namin really helps us. We share same values and beliefs. Para sa amin, we have to be competitive,” stressed Robinson. “But again winning is not a guarantee, that’s the result of what we envisioned pa rin. So, same vision, same mindsets, same direction, yun ang mas importante sa amin.
“For us, it’s not about the less available talent but it’s more of the character we want to establish.”
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