MANILA, Philippines — After proving that the National University is one of the “big boys” in the league last year, the Bulldogs coach Jeff Napa is determined to surpass their previous bronze finish in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
“We will come out strong and very competitive so at least we can keep up with the big boys again,” said Napa in Filipino in the press conference on Wednesday.
NU kicks off its campaign against defending champion Ateneo at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Napa stressed that replicating their impressive run last season won’t be easy as the Tab Baldwin-coached Ateneo remains one of the teams to beat, despite losing graduates Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso, BJ Andrade and Forthsky Padrigao.
“Definitely it will be a great competition this season,” the NU coach said. “Every school deserves to be called champion. It’s about how we perform and how we prepare our players. Rest assured we will be ready to compete.”
NU lost Germy Mahinay and John Lloyd Clemente but the Bulldogs remained intact with holdovers Kean Baclaan, Omar John, Steve Nash Enriquez, Michael Malonzo, Patrick Yu, and Jake Figueroa as well as former Nazareth School star Reinhard Jumamoy and Bobby Mark Parks.
Without a doubt, Napa believes his wards will continue to compete at a high level every game, seeking to end NU’s nine-year title drought.
“Hopefully, we gained experience from last year. We all know our players can compete,” Napa said.