Scorpions gearing up for battle

    TAKING over as new Centro Escolar University coach does not faze new Jeff Napa despite the winning tradition of the team in the PBA D-League and in other collegiate leagues.

    “No pressure,” Napa said last Monday during the league draft. “We will come out strong and iyong effort namin kailangan all-out para maibigay iyong expectations sa amin ng mga tao.”

    Napa, 38, was officially appointed by CEU as its new tactician last Jan. 14. He replaced veteran strategist Derrick Pumaren, who returned to La Salle last Jan. 7.

    A former National University stalwart in the 2000s, Napa hit the ground running for the Scorpions in the draft proceedings where they tabbed former University of the Philippines wingman and Gilas Pilipinas pool member Jaydee Tubgcab as the third pick overall.

    CEU will carry the colors of Karate Kid-CEU in the season-opening Aspirant’s Cup set to kick off on Feb. 13 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

    Napa, who guided the Bullpups to three UAAP juniors’ titles before calling the shots for the Letran Knights from 2016 to 2018, is convinced that Tubgcab will play a big role for his squad.

    “He (Tungcab) will help us, especially with his experience playing for UP in the UAAP,” Napa said of the 6-foot-3 Tungcab. “Hopefully, madala niya sa amin iyong championship experience niya.”

    Napa said he is looking to adding veteran big men to his team after 6-foot-11 Senegalese workhorse Maodo Malick Diouf transferred to UP last December.

    “Wala pa kaming import so naghahanap talaga kami ng veteran bigs na makakapagturo sa big men namin. Hopefully, mag-complement sila and mag-jell sila sa amin para maging maganda ang takbo namin this tournament,” explained Napa.

    “Right now, wala pa (import). Nandoon pa iyong karilyebo ni Diouf (Gilles Oloume) pero naghahanap pa ako ng mas quality pa para maging maganda iyong run namin ngayong D-League.”

    The Scorpions dropped seven of their core players, namely, Judel Fuentes, Keanu Caballero, Christian Uri, Tyron Chan, Jan Formento, John Rojas, and John Lisbo due to their alleged involvement in game-fixing in the Aspirant’s Cup last year.

    Playing undermanned beginning in the quarterfinals, CEU defied the odds and reached the finals, only to lose to Cignal-Ateneo in four games.

    With a drastically overhauled line-up, the Scorpions advanced to the semifinals of the last Foundation Cup but were foiled by eventual champion BRT Sumisip Basilan-St. Clare.