After seeing limited minutes last season, Daniel Padilla is now being seen as the next leader for the Letran Squires in their title defense bid in NCAA Season 99 juniors basketball tournament.
The 18-year-old cager showed just why after leading their 102-64 thrashing of Jose Rizal University last Saturday, where Padilla posted 16 points, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals to kick off their campaign in rousing fashion.
Padilla shared he's just repaying the trust given by head coach Allen Ricardo while also understanding the need to step up following the exit of their previous stars like Andy Gemao and Emman Anabo.
"Patience lang po kasi last year, naiintindihan ko naman pa [na hindi ako nagagamit masyado]. Ngayon, gusto ko pong bumawi," Padilla, who averaged just 4.09 points, 0.82 rebounds, and 0.64 assists in 7.25 minutes last season, said.
"Ang mindset ko lang po is depensa lang at naniniwala lang ako sa pinapagawa ni Coach Allen sa akin."
[I just had patience last year, I understand. Now, I want to make up for it... My mindset is to play defense and I believe in what Coach Allen asks me to do.]
Ricardo, meanwhile, stressed that while what Gemao could do for the team was exceptional, his departure could be a blessing in disguise as it will allow other players to make the most of their minutes on the court.
"Iba talaga ‘yung kayang ibigay ni Andy but you know, siguro it was a blessing to us, especially si Padilla kasi last season hindi talaga siya nagamit ’tong batang ‘to," Ricardo said.
"I guess marami rin nag-step up doon sa pagkawala ni Andy, which is nakita niyo naman on how I rotated the boys. I always give opportunity to them, give and take kami. Tutulungan namin sila and tutulungan din nila kaming coaching staff."
[What Andy could provide was something else, but I guess it was a blessing especially to Padilla because last season, he wasn't used that much... I guess there are a lot of players who are stepping up in Andy's absence, which you could see how I rotated the boys. I always give opportunity to them, it's a give and take. We'll help them and they help us, the coaching staff.]
Aside from Padilla, also stepping up for the defending champions were Syrex Silorio, who poured in 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists, and rookies Rex Villanueva, Ric Golez, David De Leon, Alex Gazzingan, and Jhuniel Dela Rama, who impressed in their debuts.
—JMB, GMA Integrated News