However, the high they were riding was dampened when news broke out that Letran head coach Aldin Ayo had transferred to Taft to coach the De La Salle University Green Archers. The festive mood from Letran’s championship celebration turned into a farewell party for their beloved head coach that helped end the ten-year seniors basketball championship drought of the 395-year-old institution.
For incoming senior Rey Nambatac, he admitted that it was heartbreaking to see Coach Ayo leave their team but admitted that Ayo’s decision was beyond their control. “Ayun, official na. Desisyon ni coach yun e. Kahit na magtampo kami, wala naman kami magagawa,” Letran’s Smart Elite ambassador shared.
Nambatac also shared that he and his teammates did not want to believe the news at first. “Halos lahat kami nagtampo e. Nanghina kami nung nagpaalam si coach sa amin. Pero habang tumatagal naman, naka-move on kami,” he said. However, instead of sulking, the third-year guard told his teammates to use this as motivation for their title defense next season. “Yung pag-alis ni coach Aldin, sana mag-serve na lang yun as motivation sa team namin,” he added.
“Hindi porke’t wala na si coach Aldin watak watak na kami. Nandun pa rin kami. Bago kasi umalis si coach, nag-iwan siya ng napakagandang team. Yung chemistry namin dadahlhin namin hangga’t san marating ng team namin.”
During the Philippine Collegiate Champions League, the NCAA Champions were clearly out-of-sync as they were blown out by rivals San Beda during the first of two championship games. Nambatac disclosed that the team has yet to have a full practice with interim head coach Glenn Capacio. “Sa ngayon ang nagtatake-charge sa amin si coach Glenn Capacio. Walang pinagkaiba yung sistema namin kasi halos pareho lang sila. Pero wala pa kaming seryosong practice,” he disclosed.
Going into next season, Nambatac will be the leader of the Knights as seniors Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal have moved on to the professional ranks. The Cagayan de Oro-native though wants to deflect the attention and continue the team concept instilled by his former head coach. “Malaking pressure sa akin yan pero na-encounter ko na rin yan nung juniors pa lang ako. Ibang level na ngayon kasi college na ito,” the Letran gunslinger said.
“Sabi nila pagsinabi mong Letran, Rey Nambatac na iyon pero hindi ako nagpapadala doon kasi the more na iniisip ko iyon, the more din na mawawala focus ko sa game at sa team namin.”
Moreover, he closed in saying that he hopes that during the off-season, the team’s underclassmen will develop into their full potential come Season 92. “Pipilitin ko na kahit isipin nila na ako yung ‘go-to-guy’, gusto ko na pagdating namin sa court hindi nila alam kung sino gagawa sa court. Yun yung gagawin naming trabaho for next year.”
With three vital pieces from their championship run now gone, NCAA Season 92 will be a tough test for the young Letran Knights squad. However, with Rey Nambatac and fellow CDO-native McJour Luib leading the way, they will give everything they have to make Muralla Street proud once more.