USJ-R on the lookout for replacements for departing players

By: Brian J. Ochoa, JONAS PANERIO December 04,2018 - 10:34 PM

Members of the Cesafi men’s basketball runner-up University of San Jose-Recoletos celebrate after topping the Kapatagan Lanao del Norte Invitational Tournament on Monday.
contributed photo

With key players leaving the team, University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) men’s basketball head coach Leode Garcia knows he has a lot of work to do to keep the Jaguars competitive in the next season of the Cebu Schools Athletics Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) men’s basketball season.

So it’s just fitting that he starts scouting for potential players this early.

“My work will be a bit difficult [during the off season] because the players I will lose are those who were playing key roles,” said Garcia, who steered the Jaguars to a runner-up finish in this year’s Cesafi tournament behind the University of the Visayas.

Those expected to leave are foreign player Segamars Ewenike, former MVP Jaybee Mantilla and workhorse RJ Dinolan. Garcia said role player John Ubalde may also opt to leave.

With the impending departure of the four, Garcia is now searching for players who can fill in the gaps in his roster.

One thing he’s doing is letting his team play in invitational tournaments in different places.

This way, he gets to hit two birds with one stone as his team is able to stay in shape and at the same time he gets to scout for potential talents from other cities or towns.

In fact, the Jaguars played in an invitational tournament in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, where they emerged as champions after beating the Kapatagan Selection, 80-54, in the finals last Monday.

Fellow Cebu team Southwestern University also played there and finished third.

“The main purpose was to start preparing for the next Cesafi season. At the same time, we were also scouting for players because I will be losing maybe four next year,” Garcia said.

In the Kapatagan tournament, Garcia revealed that there were a couple of players from Cagayan de Oro who he was interested in.

“They are 22 and 23 years old. But nothing’s sure yet because we have to check on their grades before we bring them to Cebu. That’s what I have to clarify with them. We still have to check their credentials,” Garcia said.

Meanwhile, Dinolan was named Most Valuable Player in the Kapatagan tournament.

The title win allowed the Jaguars to pocket the P50,000 cash prize.

More valuable than the monetary prize was the experience that the tournament gave the players.

“The players responded well because most of them have already gotten used to my coaching style. The players who didn’t get as much playing time this past season had something to prove because I told the team that even the regulars weren’t assured of a spot on the team for next season,” Garcia added.

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