By Peter Atencio
The Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers will have a challenging season ahead of them.
Bombers’ coach Louie Gonzales said this as they brace themselves for action in the 99th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, which begins Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think, for this season, it’s going to be challenging because of the quality of the competition. I’ve seen a lot of teams investing in their preparations,” said Gonzales.
Only two of his veterans, JL Delos Santos and John Amores, who were recruited in the 2023 PBA Rookie Draft last Sunday, are the only ones who have left the squad.
Delos Santos, was chosen in the second round by the Converge FiberXers, while Amores was taken in by the NorthPort Batang Pier in the fifth round.
The Heavy Bombers will battle the defending champions Letran Knights on opening day Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Four other veterans Ry Dela Rosa, Agem Miranda, Joshua Guiab and Marwin Dionisio are expected to step forward to provide the team the experience it needs on the floor.
With their presence, the Heavy Bombers will seek to get past their seventh-place finish last year.
The four are expected to provide the chemistry when they play with younger members of the squad, like Shawn Argente, Mart Barrera, Marj De Leon, Sidney Mosqueda, Theo Pabico, Patrick Ramos, and Vince Sarmiento.
Last season was tough for the JRU, with Amores getting suspended in the latter part of the season after getting involved in a bench-clearing incident with players from the College of St. Benilde Blazers.
And then, there’s the rescheduling of some of JRU’s games after several players were diagnosed for COVID-19 in the middle of the season.
This time, the Heavy Bombers can also count on three talented veterans, led by Miranda, who averaged 10.5 points, 3.83 rebounds, and 2.22 assists.
Guiab is good with 9.82 points, 7.82 rebounds and 1.53 assists, while Dionisio had norms of 9.24 points, 5.24 rebounds, and 1.35 assists.