MANILA, Philippines—If there’s anything San Beda will bring in the coming NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament, it’s the squad’s underdog mentality.
The Red Lions, who have the most NCAA men’s basketball titles with 22, are embracing the role of underdogs this time.
“A lot of people left, especially for the starters but knowing San Beda’s culture, we’ll still fight and that’s what’s being instilled by us leaders and coaches; the underdog mentality, coming to the NCAA season,” said team captain Peter Alfaro during Thursday’s press conference at Mall of Asia Arena.
“The number one thing this season is really preparation. We have to be ready because we know that most of the teams are at a high level this year so we can’t be complacent.”
San Beda had to go through a very rough offseason before the 99th edition of the league.
Star players James Kwekuteye and JB Bahio exhausted their NCAA playing years and were selected by Blackwater and Terrafirma, respectively, in the 2023 PBA Draft but that was just one of their worries.
The Red Lions also lost key cogs Tony Ynot, Justine Sanchez and Gab Cometa, who walked out of Mendiola and took their talents to Taft with College of St. Benilde.
Being one of the leaders of the team that underwent major changes isn’t easy but fortunately for Alfaro, he got much-needed help from San Beda’s other veterans and coaches.
“Being a leader is hard for me because we have a lot of rookies but with the help of our seniors and coaches, the job became easier because they were willing to learn, especially the systematic things,” said the graduating guard.
San Beda made the Final Four with a 12-6 record last season in coach Yuri Escueta’s first year on the team. The Lions lost to the top-seeded Blazers in the semifinals.
“As a rookie coach last season, something I learned was, you really can’t take days off when you play NCAA teams. Any team can beat you on any given day so if you’re not prepared, you’ll lose,” said Escueta.
“If you come into the game relaxed or not ready, any team can beat you. That’s the same this year.”
San Beda begins its bid to regain the crown on Tuesday against Arellano at San Juan Arena.