New Letran coach Jeff Napa on Knights’ lineup: Very promising

Jeff Napa knows what he got himself into as the new Letran head coach and he is determined to steer the Knights, the reigning NCAA seniors basketball champion, to new heights.

“Up to the challenge naman ako dito. Paghahandaan ko na lang kung ano man ang haharapin ko dito sa Letran,” said Napa on Tuesday morning when he was formally introduced by top school officials, led by Rector and President Rev. Fr. Clarence C. Marquez, OP, at the Salon de Actos inside Letran’s main campus in Manila.

“We are all aware of the joys and sorrows which accompanied our winning the NCAA seniors basketball crown in Season 91. We won the championship, but lost our coach, or more properly, we let go of our coach,” said Marquez in a strongly-worded speech.

“Winning may have ‘wounded’ us, but by ‘losing,’ we kept our honour intact. We mourned, but now we move on.”

Napa, who recently guided Nazareth School of NU to its 3rd UAAP juniors cage title in the last 5 years, will assume the coaching position left by Aldin Ayo, who hooked up with UAAP powerhouse La Salle after steering Letran to the NCAA Season 91 crown—its first since 2005—at the expense of archrival San Beda College last October.

“Alam ko mataas ang expectations nila pero sa akin kasi, tatrabahuhin ko muna. Ayaw ko magsalita ng tapos basta ako magtatrabaho na lang talaga. We’ll see what will happen with the results,” added Napa, the Knights’ 4th coach in the last 5 years.

Although they lost top guns Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal to graduation, the Knights remain a solid force to be reckoned with as veterans Rey Nambatac, McJour Luib, Jom Sollano and Bong Quinto will return for another tour of duty.

“Very promising ‘yung current lineup,” said Napa. “Hindi ko pa totally naa-assess kasi kanina ko pa lang sila nakilala. Ang assessment ko kasi sa loob ng court so titignan ko na lang kung ano ang mangyayari.”

Napa added he intends to conduct his first official practice with the Knights on Wednesday. “Getting to know muna and we’ll try to implement some drills. Gusto ko maging familiarize rin sila sa gusto naming gawin,” he said.

Napa, who also served as assistant to coach Eric Altamirano in the Bulldogs’ championship-winning team in 2014, admitted he plans to bring in his NU assistants Chico Manabat, Jake Agleron and Leo Pujante while retaining the current Knights staff, including team consultant Glenn Capacio and Ayo’s former assistant Nap Garcia.

Although he is facing a daunting task of sustaining the Knights’ success, Napa is unfazed. “It’s more of a challenge for me na magtrabaho ako lalo. Handa naman ako sa ganu’ng sitwasyon. Pagtatrabahuhan ko muna ng magi at titignan ko kung hanggang saan kami makakaabot,” he concluded. — By Jerome Lagunzad