AFTER YEARS of dominating their former league, Colegio de San Lorenzo will now search for new challenges as they take their act to the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) starting this academic year. A big plus for the Griffins is that they have someone familiar with winning NAASCU gold to lead them, Coach Boni Garcia.
Coach Garcia steered AMA University in breaking the five-year winning run of the University of Manila in 2006. Back then, the Titans absorbed the core of the disbanded San Lorenzo varsity led by eventual Most Valuable Player Chito Jaime.
This time, the Griffins will bank heavily on 6’5” beanpole Jun Gabriel and 6’0” wingman Mark Kenneth Carongoy as the team’s cornerstones on defense and offense respectively. Also seen to help the duo is 6’4” Cameroon exchange student Kenne Yemeli.
Gabriel saw action for the Santa Lucia Realtors in the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL), distinguishing himself by being named as Best Defensive Player in the 2015 Founders Cup. Carongoy redshirted last season and is raring to resume his scoring ways as he joins Gabriel in leading a team loaded with rookies and sophomores.
Coach Garcia also bared that he could have fielded a couple of other players who were vital cogs in their four-year reign as champions of the Universities, Colleges and Schools Athletic Association (UCSAA) from 2012 to 2015. However, the said players already earned their degrees and opted to seek jobs in the corporate world, an achievement that Coach Garcia sees as far greater than any championship trophy.
While maintaining a dynasty is no joke, Coach Garcia tells the San Lorenzo supporters to temper their expectations. “The competition level in NAASCU is much tougher but we will give it our best effort to bring honor to the school,” he said.
The Griffins are part of a massive expansion of the league that will open its 16th season on August 25 (Thursday) with simple rites at the Cuneta Astrodome. Aside from San Lorenzo, the other newcomers are Manuel L. Quezon University, Philippine Merchant Marine School, Enderun Colleges and De Ocampo Memorial College all set to match skills with regular members Saint Clare College of Caloocan, AMA University, New Era University, City University of Pasay, Lyceum of Subic Bay, Our Lady of Fatima University, Rizal Technological University and Philippine Christian University for a 13-school field.