MANILA, Philippines—National University may not have the most talented team, but coach Jeff Napa believes his Bulldogs have the right character to succeed in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
The Bulldogs continued to prove they are for real as they extended their winning streak to four after fending off the La Salle Green Archers, 80-76, on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Hindi naman kami talented. Makapal ang mukha ng mga ito. Matataba ang puso kaya talagang lumalabas ang talent ng mga bata,” said the NU coach after ending a 10-game losing streak to La Salle dating back to 2015.
“Kahit sino ang kalaban, wala na silang pakialam as long as they’re doing their job.”
(We’re not that talented but the players just have the confidence and big hearts that bring out the talent in these young players. They don’t mind whoever we face as long as they’re doing their jobs.)
The last time NU started a season with a 5-1 record was when it won the championship eight years ago Season 77 under coach Eric Altamirano, who called the shots for a squad led by Alfred Aroga and Troy Rosario.
Napa makes sure to always remind his players to put in the work and the Bulldogs’ dedication has paid off so far.
“Dreaming isn’t bad. That’s our mindset. It’s not bad to dream to be part of the big boys,” said Napa in Filipino. “We won’t get here if not for the work we do every day, especially the players and coaches. We have to commit ourselves, day in and day out, even if it’s hard sometimes.”
“We always give our best, whatever it takes. We do it our way, not their way,” he added.
NU has certainly proven that it’s part of the league’s “big boys” with a win over defending champion University of the Philippines last week.
Despite their hot start, Napa said the Bulldogs still have a lot to improve on especially with taking care of the ball after committing 28 turnovers against the Archers, eight of which from rookie guard Kean Baclaan.
“Although we won, we have to correct ourselves. We have to address the things we have to address. We can’t be contented with our current standing. Winning is a step towards our goal,” said Napa, whose squad battles winless Far Eastern University on Sunday at Ynares Center Antipolo.
“I’m happy at least my players are able to instill a winning culture, attitude, and mindset. I just hope these wins won’t get into their heads.”
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