Bigger pressure awaits ‘King Knight’ Rey Nambatac next season

Letran star Rey Nambatac believes the Knights’ failure to successfully defend the crown in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tournament will only spur them to strive further next year.

The Knights outlasted the Emilio Aguinaldo College in overtime, 93-87, on Thursday night at The Arena in San Juan City, allowing them to salvage some measure of pride in what turned out to be a very challenging title-retention bid under first-year coach Jeff Napa.

And the 6-foot-1 Nambatac feels the Knights have no other choice but to improve their even 9-9 mark this season and possibly reclaim the throne on his fifth and final year.

“We’re disappointed but we’re taking it positively kasi alam namin na may reason kung ganito ang team ngayon. Siguro hindi para sa amin ang season na ito. May nakalaan na mas magandang plano para sa team namin, hopefully next year,” he told sports cribes after emerging from their dugout.

While they will lose veterans McJour Luib, Jom Sollano, Felix Apreku and Chris dela Peña to graduation, Nambatac is confident his fellow holdovers, led by Bong Quinto, Jerrick Balanza and JP Calvo, are capable enough to help the Knights complete a redemption of sorts next year.

Add the painful lessons they learned in Napa’s first year at the helm and the Knights are surely in for a better showing.

“We will bounce back hard next year. Kayang-kaya ‘yan,” vowed Nambatac.

“Marami kaming nakuhang lesson sa season na ‘to. So by next year, new season, madadala na namin ‘yung mga lessons na ‘yun. At kung ano ‘yung lapses namin ngayong season na ito, next year hindi na namin mai-encounter ‘yun.”

If and when he decides to return for another tour of duty with Letran, Nambatac knows he’ll be expected to deliver—day in and day out.

“Buhat pa rin ang mundo, pero mas may pressure next year,” he stressed. “Malay natin na ‘yung mga bench players namin, mag-i-step up at mag-i-improve sila. Pero as of now, kahit malayo pa, medyo ramdam ko na ‘yung malaking pressure para sa akin next year.”

With Napa eager to return back to the drawing board and plan ahead for next year’s cage wars, Nambatac said he and the rest of the Knights will have to to deal with it.

“Pagbalik namin sa training, back to zero ulit. Kahit ako, bawal akong mag-relax kasi magta-tryout din ako ulit for next year,” he said, adding he’ll have to be more dynamic in terms of his offense.

“Kung paano ko maka-counter ‘yung depensa sa akin kasi I’m sure next year ganun pa rin ‘yung gagawin sa akin, talagang hihigpitan ‘yung depensa sa akin. Nabigla talaga ako sa ginawa sa akin kaya parang hindi ako masyadong prepared. I’m sure next season, well-prepared na ako,” he concluded. – By Jerome Lagunzad