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Pirates plotting NCAA finals return

‘We are on the right track. We have programs to follow so our players understand everything that we are teaching, starting from the basics and fundamentals of our system.’

Lyceum of the Philippines had taken the first few steps towards its bid of making a return to the finals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.

Pirates coach Gilbert Malabanan said they are already in the thick of their preparation for Season 99 of the country’s oldest collegiate league.

In fact, they have been engaging with University Athletic Association of the Philippines powerhouse De La Salle University in a series of friendly matches to gauge their readiness for the prestigious collegiate wars.

“We are on the right track. We have programs to follow so our players understand everything that we are teaching, starting from the basics and fundamentals of our system,” Malabanan told Daily Tribune in a message.

“I think our team will be more prepared this coming season.”

The past season had been very promising for the Pirates, prompting sideliners to speculate that they have what it takes to make it to the finals for the first time since future Philippine Basketball Association star CJ Perez , Mike Nzeusseu, Spencer Pretta, and twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino fell short of winning the title against San Beda University in 2018.

With Enoch Valdez at the helm, Lyceum finished the eliminations with a 12-6 record but fell prey to a well-coached, well-oiled Letran College side in the Final Four.

Now, the Pirates are busy sharpening their knives by playing a series of tuneup matches with the Green Archers — a team that is now being led by their former coach in Topex Robinson.

“Playing La Salle numerous times can help us be more competitive and build the confidence of our players,” said Malabanan, who was part of Robinson’s coaching staff from 2018 to 2020.

“They are taller and bigger, so we use our speed to our advantage.”

Malabanan admitted that Robinson’s influence is still very much alive in the Lyceum program.

“We all know that Coach Topex is the former head coach of LPU that made history in the NCAA. Anytime we need each other, we help each other for the best of our team,” he said.

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