MANILA, Philippines – If there is one thing San Beda will bring to the upcoming NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament, it is the team’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 around.
“A lot of people have left, especially for the starters, but because we know the culture of San Beda, we will still fight and that is what we, leaders and coaches, are taught; the underdog mentality, coming into the NCAA season,” team captain Peter Alfaro said during Thursday’s press conference at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“The most important thing this season is actually preparation. We have to be ready because we know that most teams are at a high level this year, so we can’t be complacent.”
San Beda had to go through a very tough off-season before the 99th edition of the competition.
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 concerns.
The Red Lions also lost key players Tony Ynot, Justine Sanchez and Gab Cometa, who left Mendiola and took their talents to Taft with College of St. Benilde.
It’s not easy being one of the leaders of the team that was undergoing major changes, but fortunately for Alfaro, he received much-needed help from San Beda’s other veterans and coaches.
“Being a leader is difficult 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,” the graduating guard said.
San Beda reached the Final Four last season with a 12-6 record in coach Yuri Escueta’s first year with the team. The Lions lost to the top-seeded Blazers in the semifinals.
“As a rookie coach last season, I learned that you really can’t take days off when you’re playing against NCAA teams. Any team can beat you on any given day, so if you are not prepared, you will lose,” Escueta said.
“If you come into the game relaxed or not ready, any team can beat you. It’s the same this year.”
San Beda begins its bid to regain the crown against Arellano at the San Juan Arena on Tuesday.