Escueta, Beda face uphill climb

September 14, 2022

San Beda University head coach Yuri Escueta was finally given a baptism of fire when they lost to Mapua University in the opening salvo of Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.

He realized one thing: It’s going to be a tough battle.

In the latest episode of The Athletes’ Tribune late Monday, Escueta admitted that regaining the title will be hard for the Red Lions.

He said they learned it the hard way when the Cardinals dealt them with a 55-66 loss in the opener last Saturday.

They, however, bounced back with an 85-56 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College on Tuesday.

“We would like to take it one game and one practice at a time,” Escueta said in the weekly sports show hosted by Nikki Viola.

“You can’t just say that we can contend for the championship right away. We would like to stick more with the process of getting the championship.”

Since winning the 2006 title with Nigerian Sam Ekwe, Pong Escobal and Ogie Menor at the helm, the Red Lions emerged as one of the most solid forces in the oldest collegiate league in the country as they won a total of 11 titles.

Things, however, slowed down last year when they were given the boot by Mapua in the semifinals, prompting the school to replace Boyet Fernandez with Escueta.

Escueta is a proven winner.

He cut his teeth playing for great coaches like Ato Badolato and Norman Black before assisting Chot Reyes and Tab Baldwin in the PBA and Gilas Pilipinas program, respectively.

Now that he is at the helm, he admitted that the mission of leading the Red Lions back to the throne is quite challenging.

“We can’t tell ourselves that we should be a championship-contending team. There’s a lot of hard work, lessons and sacrifices along the way. We stick to the process and see the big picture. Hopefully, we’ll get there,” Escueta said.

Save for James Kwekuteye, the core of San Beda is composed of young players like JB Bahio, Alex Visser, Ralph Pinuela and Jacob Cortez.

Add a rookie head coach in Escueta to the mix and the Red Lions will transform into a young, hungry and promising team.

“I’m very happy that the players are receptive to the lessons I’m teaching them, but at the same time, there’s still a lot to learn here. We’re hoping that in each game of the season, we get better so that towards the end, we peak at the right time,” he said.

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