By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
It was evident in the past three games of the Iloilo United Royals that something was missing. Although grabbing 1 win out of their last 3 games, the team just looks and feels different on the court as they were when they were winning consecutive games, upsetting powerhouse teams such as Manila and Valenzuela.
Right after their big win against the Manila Stars Frontrow, Samboy de Leon, one of the team’s main scorers, would disappear from the team.
There were no reports explaining de Leon’s absence.
But last September 17, 2019, during the East Asia Super League Terrific 12 held at Macau, three teams represented the Philippines in the tourney, the San Miguel Beermen, Blackwater Elite, and the TNT Katropa.
During TNT Katropa’s game, it was curious to see on national television that de Leon suited up as TNT’s starting shooting guard.
So that was that, clear confirmation of de Leon’s departure from the United Royals.
With de Leon’s absence and the team right in the middle of the MPBL Lakan Season, the other players must step up and fill the void left by Samboy.
Everybody can’t deny that de Leon was always their consistent scorer since they joined as an expansion team, helping propel the young Iloilo team being tagged as “the dark horse” of the Lakan season with them upsetting teams and winning in unexpected fashion as rookies in the league.
The past games without de Leon seemed a bit shaky for Iloilo, as they looked rattled in the clutch moments of the game.
During their first home game against the Pasay Voyagers, Iloilo had a chance to equalize in the last 40 seconds of the game but turned the ball over due to a 24-second violation.
The five on the floor for the United Royals looked hesitant in shooting the ball, their overpassing and reluctance ultimately cost them the game.
Coach Eric Gonzales should re-define their roles to cover up de Leon’s departure from the team.
This is a big loss for Iloilo, with their chances of making a playoff appearance on the line.
They should go back to square one.