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For years with the San Beda Red Lions, Ryusei Koga flourished as a super sub while being mentored under the tutelage of all-time Red Lions greats like Baser Amer and Anjo Caram.
Now playing in the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational tournament for the Mindoro Tamaraws, Koga hopes to take his game a step further and be the leader this time around.
“Noong pandemic, for two years, nire-ready ko ‘yung mindset ko na, kapag bumalik ang MPBL, gusto ko maging alpha sa isang team,” Koga said after Mindoro’s 80-77 grind-it-out victory over the Manila Stars on Sunday.
Taking inspiration from the likes of Amer and Caram, who usually were the starters during the Red Lions’ championship dynasty runs, Koga took the initiative to be the veteran presence this time under head coach Britt Reroma.
“Nadadala ko ‘yun. Siyempre noong college days ko, mayroon akong mga leaders like Baser and Anjo, talagang from there, natutunan ko na ako rin, when I have a team na kailangan ng leadership ko, gagawin ko ‘yung role,” Koga shared.
“Gusto ko maging leader. Gusto kong hasain pa ang pagiging leader ko sa loob ng court. Tapos ‘yun nga, hindi ko pinabayaan ang mga workouts. Wala man akong mga basketball trainings, drills, talagang sabi ko kapag bumalik ang trainings, magdo-double work ako,” he added.
As a testament to his words, Koga led the Tamaraws with a productive 17-point, four-assist outing which included five triples. He also had three rebounds, a steal and a block in over 28 minutes of play.
Reroma noted after the match that having familiar faces in the roster, given the lack of preparation time and the tournament’s quick duration is key — and he found answer in Koga whom he has worked with for years.
Koga himself feels he has a lot to work on; but if his first game is an indication, the combo guard will definitely go a long way as the team’s alpha.
“Marami pa akong kailangan i-work. Leadership, skills, pag-handle sa team. Kailangan ko pa trabahuhin ‘yon. Kailangan mas matibay ‘yung utak ko at tsaka puso ko,” he said.
Photo from Chooks-to-Go MPBL