NCAA: Playing with chip on their shoulder, Blazers out to prove their worth

Benilde Blazers in NCAA Season 98.

Benilde Blazers in NCAA Season 98.
Tristan Tamayo’s photo/

MANILA, Philippines—In addition to winning the elusive NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball championship, coach Charles Tiu had one more mission on my mind.

Tiu wants to help his players prove their former teams wrong by excluding them from the squad.

“I told them, ‘You know, you guys got cut by the school for one reason or another. That’s why we have something to prove. Prove to everyone that they made a mistake and let you go,'” Tiu said on the Howie Severino Podcast.

So far, the top coach challenge is being actively accepted by the top Blazers players.

Will Gozum, a star in the NCAA Jrs. shared with Mapua in 2018, starting his college career with the University of the Philippines, where he was mostly unused.

After only playing an average of four minutes a game for Fighting Maroons, rookies are highly rated switched to Benilde before Season 97.

Now, Tiu’s bottom line is averaging 16.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game and is the leader for the tournament MVP.

“Maybe they didn’t fit the previous coach, the previous team. Maybe they weren’t given the chance. But we want to develop their basketball and we want to show that they belong, they play basketball,” explained Tiu.

Backyard stars have a story almost like Benilde’s grandpa.

Migs Oczon and JC Cullar were former UAAP players who were flourishing with the Blazers in the NCAA.

Oczon is averaging 12.2 points per game, a huge leap from his National College quota in Season 82, where he scored just 4.14 points per game.

Cullar, who was a member of the Oriental University in Season 81, is now an important member of a team, being the captain of Benilde. He’s also the team’s top passer with 4.7 assists per game.

Tiu and his team of unused players will top the NCAA Finals Sunday when they take on defending champion Letran.

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