MANILA, Philippines -- Colegio de San Juan de Letran guard Fran Yu knows that the Knights have plenty to prove in the NCAA Season 96 men's basketball tournament, where they will be coming in as defending champions.
The Knights pulled off a massive upset in Season 95, when they stunned erstwhile unbeaten San Beda University to come away with the championship. The Red Lions were aiming for a four-peat, and had swept the elimination round, only to run into a Letran team that was peaking at the right time.
It was Yu who orchestrated the Knights' victories in Games 1 and 3, and won Finals MVP honors for his efforts.
"Gusto namin mapatunayan na kaya talaga namin makipagsabayan sa mga teams," Yu said in a recent appearance on "The Prospects" podcast.
"Kasi 'di ba, all-Filipino kami, tapos 'yung kalaban namin, (hindi). Para hindi nila sabihin na naka-tsamba lang, ganoon," he added.
The Knights were able to overcome San Beda's star-studded line-up in the finals. Not only did the Red Lions feature the Season 95 Best Foreign Player in Donald Tankoua, but they also had three Mythical Team members in MVP Calvin Oftana, James Canlas, and Evan Nelle.
In two of the three games, however, it was Letran that executed better down the stretch to pull off the win, with Yu and veteran Jerrick Balanza hitting the biggest shots in the game.
"May gusto pa kami i-prove," Yu stressed. "Gusto namin mag-back-to-back."
To do so, Yu knows he has to take a bigger leadership role. He is a veteran of the team now, especially with players like Balanza and Bonbon Batiller having gone on to turn professional.
It is a challenge that he is ready to take, although he knows that he will have help thanks to their other veterans like Jeo Ambohot and Larry Muyang.
"Hindi naman sa inaako ko 'yung (pagiging) go-to guy, kasi siyempre andiyan si Muyang, si Ambohot tsaka si (Ato) Ular. Last year na nilang tatlo eh," he noted.
"Kapag point guard, kailangan mong mag-lead. Kailangan mong mag-assist sa kanila, para buong flow ng team niyo, tumatakbo," he added. "Saka 'yung pagiging leader, galing na ako kay Toto (JP Calvo), kay Bong (Quinto), tapos kay Jerrick at Bonbon."
"Lahat sila nasa PBA na. Gagayahin ko na lang kung paano 'yung pag-lead nila sa amin."
The NCAA men's basketball tournament will be one of four events held when Season 96 opens in early 2021. Letran will host the season, which features only the mandatory sports in basketball, volleyball, athletics, and swimming.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).