ANTIPOLO, Philippines – Letran star guard Fran Yu was nowhere to be found at the Ynares Center court in Antipolo City for the do-or-die Game 3 of the NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball finals, all due to a suspension he incurred in the previous game against College of St. Benilde (CSB).
Despite being banned from stepping on the court during the Knights’ last stand for a title three-peat, the former Finals MVP still made his presence felt before his team’s most crucial game of the season on Sunday, December 18, with the only thing he could do: provide encouraging words of wisdom.
And whatever he did clearly worked, as Letran did just fine without him on the way to a stunning 81-67 blowout of CSB to complete the program’s first three-peat since the 1982 to 1984 seasons.
“I was coaching them every night [leading up to the game] that they should stay confident in themselves,” he said in Filipino. “It was the last game of the season, so no one should lose their cool.”
“It’s great that they stepped up. I’m most proud of Kobe Monje. He played great, a really quality game,” said Yu, who showed up during the team celebration. “They are no longer kids. They’re really refined and ready for harvest. Hopefully next year, they go all the way again.”
The remaining Knights who played in Yu’s place clearly took the advice to heart, as they echoed his words in their championship presser.
“He just said that we should not break apart as a unit, that we needed to be solid even without him,” graduating guard Brent Paraiso said in Filipino. “We took that to heart – that even without him, we stayed together. Our chemistry and confidence were there.”
“A lot of us stepped up for him. There were a lot who were suddenly given minutes after not playing for quite some time, and they all delivered, because we told one another that we needed one another’s help.”
Yu – whose collegiate career unceremoniously ended with one decisive blow of a whistle in Game 2 – watched Letran’s title-clinching blowout happen from afar and not with his teammates as he would’ve wanted.
But at the end, he heaved a big sigh of relief after seeing that the Knights were more than ready for life without him after all.
“I’m just really happy because despite my departure, they showed they were a team. That’s why there are 18 players. If someone leaves, someone will step up,” Yu continued.
“We proved to the NCAA that whatever we do, if we know we’re doing it right, we’d always get what we want.” – Rappler.com