BEFORE the Letran Knights won the men’s basketball title in Season 91 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), nobody believed in the team—including its players.
“My teammates and I laughed when our coach told us we would be champions this season,” recalled Knights point guard Rey Nambatac. A low off-season ranking explained why he was not expecting the team to do well in the 91st season.
“We placed sixth last season and we were even thinking that we wouldn’t make it to the final four,” he said.
Unbeknownst to many was that without Nambatac’s perseverance, there might not have been a championship title.
“Actually Letran didn’t get me. I hurdled my way to be part the team,” he pointed out.
A native of Cagayan de Oro, he traveled to Manila to try out for Letran’s high school basketball team.
As a Letran Squire, he garnered important awards that were key to his joining the Knights. Nambatac had been named NCAA juniors Rookie of the Year and Most
“The risk I took was all worth it,” he said.
Remembering their journey to the championship, he said that the Knights gained confidence only when it won its third game against San Beda Red Lions, 93-80.
“When we were up against San Beda, we told ourselves that this is it,” he recounted. “We all thought that our victories were merely due to luck, so facing the defending champions was our ultimate test.”
But Letran became complacent, too, losing against Emilio Aguinaldo College, 83-69, in a game that ended a 7-0 winning streak.
“We underestimated them and this became a struggle because we thought our team chemistry was fading,” he said.
Nambatac’s injury-plagued season didn’t stop him from giving his all: “I become super aggressive when playing. It’s my strength.”
In time, what was once dismissed as a joke became a reality—Letran defeating five-time champion San Beda in game three of the NCAA finals, 85-82.
“The championship experience is different because nobody believed in our team,” said Nambatac. “We proved all our doubters wrong.”
This year, a bigger responsibility awaits him. “We have to defend the crown,” he said with conviction.
The third year marketing management student has two more playing years left in the NCAA. He said that he knows what he wants to do when he finishes college.
“I dream of playing in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association),” he declared. “That’s why I’m making baby steps in the NCAA—to reach that dream.”
Photography Raymond Cauilan Styling Daryl Baybado Grooming Syd Helmsley Hairstyle Jet Babas