ROOKIE coach Rensy Bajar of reigning champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran expects a strong opposition every game as the Season 99 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) senior basketball tournament starts on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Speaking to the media during a news conference along with fellow coaches and school officials on Thursday at the Coral Way of the MOA Arena, Bajar is hoping to extend the Letran Knights’ dominance in the country’s oldest basketball collegiate league.
“There’s a lot of pressure as a defending champion that’s why we have to work hard to sustain the expectations of the people and do whatever it takes to stay in control of the season,” Bajar told reporters. “I know it will be tough, but we will try to give our best and compete every game.”
Bajar was signed by Letran last April for a two-year contract to replace former coach Bonnie Tan after being assigned as coach of NorthPort in the Philippine Basketball Association. Kurt Reyson, Bajar added, was promoted as the Knights new team captain.
Meanwhile, host Jose Rizal University (JRU) formally opened Season 99 with a remarkable theme of “New Heroes of the Game,”adding that all sporting events like athletics and swimming, among others, are now returning to normal.
“We will continue championing new heroes to carry the legacy of the NCAA,” NCAA and JRU President Dr. Vincent Fabella said.
The opening day beginning Sunday will feature Letran battling JRU at 3 p.m. after the 2 p.m. traditional opening ceremony. Lyceum will meet last year’s first runner-up College of Saint Benilde at 5:30 p.m.
Also seeing action are San Beda, University of Perpetual Help, Arellano University, Mapua, San Sebastian and Emilio Aguinaldo College.
Apart from Sundays, the league, which will be televised simulcast on GMA and GTV live and streamed through the TV giant’s YouTube channel, will have playing days every Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday.
“GMA Network is a proud partner of the NCAA,” GMA Network chair and chief executive officer Atty. Felipe Gozon explained.
Management Committee chair Paul Supan of JRU said the league theme also pays tribute to all the NCAA family who will all contribute to make a successful season.
“Cheering fans, hardworking players, competent officials and dedicated coaches make the sport beautiful,” Supan said. “They are the true heroes of the game.”
Tonichi Pujante assured fairness in officiating.
“Just what I’ve said last year, we will have parity, transparency and integrity,” he said.
Image credits: NCAA-GMA