Team Preview: San Beda Red Lions

Overall Record last season:  Champion, 20-2

Head Coach: Ronald Magsanoc

Assistants:  Benjie Paras, Patrick Fran, Xavier Nunag, JB Sison, Mark Jomalesa, Britt Reroma, Boyet Fernandez (consultant), Bonie Carbonell (consultant)

Team Manager:  Mukesh Advani

Players:
Abarcar, Francis
Abatayo, Van
Adeogun, Olaide
Amer, Baser
Bonsubre, Jun
Caram, Anjo
Dela Cruz, Art
Dela Rosa, Rome
Koga, Ryusei
Lim, Carmelo
Ludovice, Yvan
Mendoza, JP
Moralde, Dave
Pascual, Jake
Pascual, Kyle
Villaruz, Ritchie

The Red Lions are not just gunning for a three-peat but also a 17th overall basketball championship to break out of a tie with Letran at 16 titles each.  But they face rough sailing season with the exodus of their championship core.  In this 88th Season of the NCAA, San Sebastian looms as the team to beat.

Key Losses:
The 2010 and 2011 titles were won by SBC primarily with Garvo Lanete’s sharp sniping, Dave Marcelo and Sudan Daniel manning the paint, and Anthony and David Semerad alternating on shackling Calvin Abueva.  But all these names won’t be in this year’s roster.  Add to that list Mar Villahermosa, who top-scored for the Lions with 15 markers in Game 1 of last year’s finals.  Combining all these players’ norms last year, the team will be missing 40.8 points or almost half of its league leading 82.5 points per game. 

An even more significant departure is that of coach Frankie Lim, the Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011, the same years that the Lions ruled the league.  Lim resigned after the NCAA slapped a two-year ban on him for figuring in a melee with the San Sebastian volleyball coach late last year.

Key Additions:
Debuting for San Beda is a gentle giant from Nigeria named Olaide Adeogun.  This 6’8” center is built like a rock and a monster off the boards.  He is also a more agile and skilled version of former Red Lion Samuel Ekwe, who also hails from the same African country.  Ola was referred to San Beda by Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Bill Bayno.  In the recent Fil Oil Cup, Adeogun proved his readiness for the NCAA by collecting 10.6 points on a 56% shooting clip, 9.6 boards and 1.3 blocks.   Beefing up San Beda’s frontline is former Blue Eagle and Red Cub Arthur Dela Cruz, while another ex-Cub Yvan Ludovice returns to Mendiola after playing for the National University in the UAAP two years back.  2010 campaigners Dave Moralde and JP Mendoza are likewise reactivated and should provide some outside scoring.  The Red Lions also got the biggest haul in the NCAA of blue chips from the high school ranks.  Last year’s NCAA Juniors finals MVP Francis Abarcar from the Red Cubs opted to stay with his alma mater along with teammate Jun Bonsubre, a lanky 6’5” slotman.  But also turning red is one of Abarcar’s fiercest foes, from runner-up La Salle Greenhills – Ritchie Villaruz.  He led LSGH with 22 points in Game 1 of the finals against the Red Cubs. 

Holdovers:
Although they lost some of their top players, the Red Lions still have a potent crew led by last season’s rookie-sensation Baser Amer and defense-specialist Jake Pascual.  Also returning are old reliables Rome Dela Rosa, Anjo Caram, Kyle Pascual, Ryusei Koga and Melo Lim.  With these holdovers, plus the fantastic new cast, SBC still possesses the deepest bench in the field.

Season Outlook, Strengths and Weaknesses:
The Red Lions remain to be a contender for the crown this season despite a change in the coaching staff and the departure of key players.  But new mentor Ronnie Magsanoc will have his hands full in the probable date with the Stags in this year’s finale.  The other teams, save perhaps for the Knights, should be easy prey.  With an almost intact line-up, San Sebastian has a strong chance of preventing the Lions a third straight title.  Last year, the Stags dealt San Beda one of only two losses but were blanked by the Lions in the best-of three finals.

San Beda’s strongest point is its bench.  Even its third unit can win convincingly against lower NCAA teams.  This will enable Magsanoc to comfortably rotate his men to keep fresh legs on the floor, a must for a running and full-court pressing team like the Lions. 

During the pre season tournament also, the team noticeably solidified its defense.  SBC ranked first in defense in the Fil-Oil Cup, limiting opponents to merely 57 points.  Eventual Fil-Oil champion NU and runner-up La Salle followed with only 61.1 and 63.8 allowed to opponents respectively.  This can be credited to the new coaching staff, which focused on defense the moment they took over the team.

Ironically, a major weakness of this year’s batch of Lions is outside shooting.  With Lanete and Anthony Semerad no longer around, there is no legitimate shooter for the Lions.  Occasionally, Melo Lim catches fire from beyond the arc but he blows hot and cold.  San Beda would have had a terrific sniper in Julius Armon, a highly touted Fil-American who was expected to succeed Lanete for the go-to-guy’s role.  But the Lions went to their annual U.S. training during the summer with him, but came back without him.  Armon told management he wanted to try his luck in the NBA D-League instead.

Prognosis:
Unlike in previous years, offense won’t be the Lions’ biggest weapon this season.  But they can still be a fluid offensive unit if the Lions can revive their former up-tempo style under Lim.  In the last five seasons, the Lions were unstoppable in the open court with blinding speed.  In the Fil-Oil, their transition offense appears to be controlled.  Without consistent gunners, the Lions must step on the gas to get their offense going, just like before. 

Moreover, everybody needs to step-up offensively for the team, now that it lacks pure scorers.  Amer may easily be the most talented in the team offensively.  This means that he will have to play the shooting guard position more than the point.  Dela Rosa must also take charge this time.  He has been inconsistent with his scoring and oftentimes hesitant to take the big shots.  Finally, the big guys must be involved more in offense.  Jake Pascual must renew his offensive game that was evident during his rookie year.  Kyle Pascual must take more of the short jumpers that he is proficient with.  And Adeogun must get more touches in the post.

Defensively, San Beda will be difficult to crack.

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