COLE­GIO de SAN JUAN de LE­TRAN KNIGHTS

IT TOOK JUST 16 GAMES TO COM­PLETE THE SIEGE OF MU­RALLA. AF­TER A STRING OF SEVEN CON­SEC­U­TIVE FI­NAL FOUR AP­PEAR­ANCES, IN­CLUD­ING TWO CHAM­PI­ONSHIPS, THE ON­CEIM­PEN­E­TRA­BLE FORTRESS THAT WAS COLE­GIO DE SAN JUAN DE LE­TRAN CRUM­BLED THANKS TO A LACK­LUS­TER 7-9 W

Rebound Magazine - - NCAA PREVIEW - by Chris­tian D. Soler

Look for a lot of flu­id­ity and in­ter­change­abil­ity from this lineup. Hot­shot Kevin Alas (team-highs of 12.8 PPG, 3.1 APG), while learn­ing the ropes of be­ing a more efficient scorer in the NCAA, will see a lot of time man­ning the point as his fa­ther and coach, Louie, looks to hold him more ac­count­able to the team. Franz Dysam should still fig­ure in the play­mak­ing chores, but Alas’ more prom­i­nent role at the one spot is also de­signed to de­crease the num­ber of turnovers Le­tran reg­is­ters in a game, a num­ber that stood at 20.5 in Sea­son 86, sec­ond-to-the-worst. That could stand to ben­e­fit Dysam, who shot 39 per­cent from three-point range.

While Alas is still ex­pected to be the fo­cal point of the of­fense, the onus is on the Knights’ front­line to be more in­volved in the of­fense. The el­der Alas is ex­pect­ing big things from Jam Cortes and Jonathan Belo­rio. Cortes (10.8 PPG, 10.6 RPG) was one of only four play­ers in the league to norm dou­bledigit av­er­ages in points and re­bounds, while the ath­letic Belo­rio will look to im­prove on a woe­ful 32 per­cent shoot­ing clip in his first tour of duty with Le­tran. Sopho­more small for­ward VJ Espiritu takes on the role va­cated by streaky shooter Jaypee Be­len­cion, the only sig­nif­i­cant loss from the 2010 squad.

Bench

De­spite miss­ing out on the semi­fi­nals last sea­son, the Knights’ sec­ond unit typ­i­fied the work­man­like attitude of past and more sto­ried Louie Alas squads. Rook­ies Kevin Ra­cal and Mark Cruz will add a touch of skill and fi­nesse to this corps. Ra­cal, a lanky

6’2” swing­man who made waves for team Muntinlupa in the in­au­gu­ral 2010 Coca-Cola Hoopla, is deadly on the open floor and an as­set on de­fense. Cruz, a for­mer Le­tran Squire and younger brother of Marvin, makes up for his size at the point with his build and on­court savvy and smarts.

One of the most in­trigu­ing sto­ry­lines for 2011 wrests on the shoul­ders of Ray­mond Al­mazan. The 6’7” cen­ter, who tal­lied just 8.9 min­utes a game last year, had to work his way back into the lineup in the pre­sea­son af­ter bat­tling aca­demic is­sues. While the coach­ing staff isn’t rush­ing his learn­ing curve, a sound con­tri­bu­tion on the boards and bet­ter use of his im­pos­ing fig­ure can only ben­e­fit the squad. Jun-Jun Alas, Lyceum trans­feree An­drei Men­doza and ex-Squire Zy­rone Cu­dal pro­vide ad­di­tional mus­cle to the front­court. An­drei Pantin, a fringe ro­ta­tion player, is a de­fen­sive stop­per.

Coach­ing

Only a hand­ful of tac­ti­cians pos­sess the cre­den­tials that Alas has, a fact that ren­dered his team’s 2010 per­for­mance dif­fi­cult to be­lieve. Mak­ing mat­ters worse for his squad was go­ing 1-5 in games de­cided by six points or less. “Endgame ex­e­cu­tion is some­thing you learn from play­ing in as many games as pos­si­ble. It’s a habit they need to de­velop,” he as­serts.

De­spite the de­ba­cle, how­ever, things like his de­mand­ing prac­tices and em­pha­sis on hard-nosed de­fense re­main con­stant. They were the pri­mary cat­a­lysts of the four Le­tran­ite ti­tle teams from 1998 to 2005. Alas was in charge of three of those cham­pi­onship squads, and has de­liv­ered a strong mes­sage to his wards. “There’s a sense of ur­gency to get to the Fi­nal Four. It’s not like last year where I just forced them to be­lieve we could.”

In­tan­gi­bles

The logic of com­mon sense dic­tates that, with a strate­gist like Alas lead­ing the way, Le­tran would be shoo-ins for the Fi­nal Four ev­ery year. The likes of JRU and Mapúa de­bunked that, so it’s now up to Cortes, Kevin Alas and the more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers to re­in­state that lost swag­ger. It’s im­per­a­tive for some­one to emerge and be­come a locker room pres­ence.

Out­look

The Knights will be in the thick of the fight for a semis slot. It won’t come easy, but con­sid­er­ing how level the field is be­low San Beda, they’ve got more than a chance.

C PF SF SG PG

Jonathan Belo­rio Jam Cortes VJ Espiritu Kevin Alas Franz Dysam

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