After falling short in the NCAA Season 98 Seniors Basketball Finals, the College of Saint Benilde returned for Season 99 looking to claim the crown that had eluded them by just one game.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, they took a step back as they fell in the Final Four after a tumultuous term in the elimination rounds.
They eventually finished as the fourth seed with an 11-7 record.
Top-seeded Mapua University made quick work of the inconsistent Blazers as the Cardinals stormed them in the fourth quarter, resulting in Benilde’s 67-78 loss.
Season 98 MVP Will Gozum had chosen to return to Benilde and play out his final year in hopes of attaining the title. And he remains grateful for his time donning the Green and White despite falling short of their goals this season.
“One thing I will say sobrang thankful ako sa team na ito na nandito sila.
“Sobrang thankful ako sa mga coaches, buong community, sa mga sumusuporta sa amin, sa bosses, sa mga managers namin, sobrang thankful kami. Isa lang masasabi ko na talagang lumaban itong team na ito,” shared the 24-year-old forward, who transferred from UP to CSB three years ago.
“Yung brotherhood namin nandoon hanggang dulo, hindi kami bumitaw. Sobrang thankful ako na nandito ako sa kalagayan ko at nakilala ko yung mga teammates ko.”
Gozum was particularly thankful for the mentorship of head coach Charles Tiu, whose blunt coaching and high expectations helped shape Gozum into one of the best bigs in the NCAA.
“Yung system naman ni Coach Charles, siya yung nag-adjust sa akin, talagang nagbigay siya sa akin ng confidence. Bumalik ako dahil sa kanya at sobrang thankful ako na nakilala ko si Coach Charles,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.
Gozum, who transferred from UP for the chance to learn under Tiu, shared that his decision to move was ultimately justified despite lacking the results they wanted.
“Sobrang worth it, talaga. Coach Charles, paano sila mangalaga, paano sila magdevelop ng player… Sobrang happy ako na naturuan nila ako and I hope na happy rin sila sa akin,” added Gozum.
Regardless of the results, Gozum’s strong play for the past three years helped the Blazers develop a winning culture. Now, he hopes the Benilde community will remember him for his contributions to their school.
“I hope hindi nila ako makalimutan, and I hope na yung suporta nila nandiyan lang.
“Thankful ako na kahit papaano napunta ako sa part ng environment na sobrang ganda. Nakita niyo naman yung supporta nila sa amin, sa school makikita namin sila talagang nagha-hi sila sa akin. Tipong binibigay nila yung lahat nila para sa amin, sobrang thankful kami doon na suportahan nila kami,” he expressed.
As he looks ahead to a future in basketball outside Benilde, Gozum remains undecided about where his next step will take him.
“I don’t know yet. Siguro ewan ko kung ano plano as akin ni God, wala pa akong any choices ngayon. Actually wala pa akong nakukuhang offers, but you know, hindi naman doon natatapos yung journey,” shared Gozum, who will most likely return to MPBL team Quezon first before plotting his next move.
“Laban lang ako and dasal lang kay God.”