With the graduation of top playmaker Mark Cruz, veteran guard McJour Luib is expected to play a crucial role in Letran’s title-retention bid in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament that gets going on June 25 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Aside from chipping in the needed offensive support to help overcome the loss of the diminutive Cruz, the 5-foot-11 Luib, 22, has also been tasked by new Letran coach Jeff Napa to provide leadership—on and off the court—as the Knights’ designated team skipper.
The challenge appears more daunting than ever but Luib is not one to back down.
“Mas mabigat ‘yung role ko ngayong taon kasi mas madami akong responsibilities. Kaya kailangan ko mag-step up inside and outside the court. Kailangan i-motivate ko ang mga teammates ko para in one page kami lahat,” the graduating Cagayan de Oro City native told FOX Sports on Thursday.
Luib, who served as the perfect sidekick to the offensive-minded Cruz last year, said he’s still bent on doing it all to help the Knights’ cause.
“Sinabi naman niya (Napa) sa akin na gawin ko pa rin yung ginawa ko last year lalo sa depensa at mga intangibles. Ganun naman talaga ako. Bonus na lang ‘yung mga open na tira. Kailangan lang i-less ‘yung mga turnovers ko at i-lead ‘yung mga teammates ko,” he said.
Despite the presence of fellow veterans Rey Nambatac, Jom Sollano, Bong Quinto, Felix Apreku and sophomore Jerrick Balanza, Luib admitted the Knights won’t be the same without Cruz and versatile wingman Kevin Racal—especially when the game’s on the line.
“Although may championship experience kami, malaki kasi ‘yung nawala sa amin—sina K-Racs at Mark. Kaya sa end-game situations, kailangan naming alagaan ‘yung bola. Dapat mag-mature at mag-grow agad kami as a team,” he stressed.
Expecting a tough resistance from their rivals, starting with arch-nemesis San Beda on the opening day, Luib urged the Knights to keep their focus on the task at hand.
“One game at a time lang,” he said. “Gusto naming i-defend ‘yung crown. Handa na kaming i-defend yung crown. Pero gagawin namin one game at a time. Kailangan mag-double time, mag-double effort. Gawin ang lahat ng pinapagawa ni coach.”
Luib also said there’s hardly a difference between Napa’s system to Ayo’s.
“Si coach Aldin, ‘yung mayhem defense namin, mas grabe pumukpok sa depensa. Ngayon ganun rin naman. Mas more on ball movement and quick plays in transition. Pero halos parehas lang rin talaga,” he said. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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