Gunning for a back-to-back title in the NCAA’s centennial season, the San Beda Red Lions suffered a big blow in losing star guard Jacob Cortez and the departure of seniors Peter Alfaro, Clifford Jopia, JV Gallego, and Damie Cuntapay.
Holdovers such as NCAA Season 99 Finals MVP James Payosing, stretch forward Yukien Andrada, and high-flyer Jomel Puno have big shoes to fill.
Dubbed as the ‘King Lion,’ Cortez led the team in points, assists, and steals, averaging 15.39 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and, 1.2 steals per game.
The on and off-court leadership of the seniors led by their team captain Peter Alfaro will also be missed.
“Wala akong masasabi sa leadership niya, he is 100% great leader talaga,” Andrada said on Alfaro’s captaincy.
But when someone leaves, someone else comes.
Andrada said notable newcomers in Bryan Sajonia and Penny Estacio can provide the much needed boost in the backcourt and on the offensive end for the Mendiola squad.
“Sila Sajonia, sila Estacio, I think they are really great scoring guards,” he said.
Sajonia, a prolific guard from Pavia, Iloilo, made a leap in his sophomore year with the FEU Tamaraws, averaging 11.17 points, 4.17 rebounds, 1.67 assists, and 1.58 steals per game.
He even led Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 side in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China before bowing out to South Korea in the quarterfinals alongside fellow San Beda newcomer Bismarck Lina.
Estacio, on the other hand, posted averages of 4.77 points, 1.62 rebounds, and 1.69 assists per game in his lone season with the DLSU Green Archers and was impressive playing for the Red Lions’ Team-B in different collegiate leagues.
“Nawala nga sa amin si Jacob (Cortez), so I think they will help us on the offensive side and they are really great defensively also,” Andrada said.
Aside from Sajonia, Estacio, and Lina, San Beda was also able to secure the commitment of Calimag brothers, RC and Richi, from the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas, respectively.