San Beda and Lyceum aren’t the only teams locked in on a mission to reach the finals
By Klyde Manansala | Photos by Luis Tamondong
The oldest collegiate basketball league in the country commences on July 7, Saturday but while many will be quick to assume a San Beda-Lyceum finals rematch, three teams have the potential to spoil the party.
The Red Lions, who are on the verge of achieving another three-peat, remain as the team to beat with its fatal core featuring Donald Tankoua, Javee Mocon, and King Lion Robert Bolick.
In contrast, the Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates’ will also barge in the season with their historic achievement of completing an 18-game sweep in last year’s elimination round still a reminder for everyone of what they’re capable of.
On a good note, some of the underdog and underrated teams in the previous year will also enter season 94 with a retooled reinforcement that will help them elevate their chances of securing a spot at the Final Four.
College of St. Benilde Blazers
You definitely don’t want to sleep on the Blazers. At the recent FilOil Flying V Pre-Season Cup, the Benildeans displayed excellent team cohesion despite losing in the semifinals to eventual champions San Beda Red Lions.
While the Blazers finished 10th last season with a 4-14 standing, they’ve been tagged as a dark horse this year after showing off great team chemistry and an intelligent kind of ferocity in their pre-season campaign. Trusting each other proved crucial for the Taft-based squad, converting at least 20 assists per game in the pre-season cup and D-league campaign.
“I’d say we are almost there. A few things that we have to polish more and I think we’ll be good this coming NCAA season,” former PBA player and now Blazers head coach TY Tang told Inquirer.net.
Leading the Blazers are Edward Dixon, Unique Naboa, and constantly improving import Clement Leutcheu who’s on his last two seasons with the Blazers due to the imminent import ban by 2020. The Blazers will also add rookie Justin Gutang who can play multiple floor positions.
Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights
Expectations aren’t the only things running high around the Letran Knights this season.
Jeff Napa, the Knights’ chief tactician, has finally collected the missing pieces to his puzzle to complete a superb roster in his third year in Intramuros. The Knights are competing in the 94th season with towering players, making the yearly underrated team a legitimate contender for the title.
Guys like 6’7” Larry Muyang and 6’5” Christian Fajarito will complement Jeo Ambohot’s dominance in the paint—not to mention the addition of Fran Yu who played for Batang Gilas as well as University of the East shooter Bonbon Batiller, both of whom can boost Letran’s offensive firepower.
With the departure of gunner Rey Nambatac, the Knights will also need to rely on veterans JP Calvo, Jerrick Balanza, and possible MVP candidate Bong Quinto if they manage to reach the Final Four.
Last year, the Knights finished with 9-9 win-loss card and was just one win short of a ticket to the semifinals after being gunned down by the San Sebastian Golden Stags in their do-or-die battle.
University of Perpetual System-DALTA Altas
Certainly, Perpetual Help might also be the team to beat this season with the arrival of winning head coach Frankie Lim.
A ticket to the semifinals is something the 58-year-old coach can possibly bring to the table for the Altas. Throughout his stay at San Beda, Lim was able to steer four championships in his five-year stay, thanks to his determined mentality and strict mentorship.
In the meantime, Lim’s presence with the Altas will play a vital role especially now that they’re on a rebuilding phase after Gab Dagangon and GJ Ylagan’s departure. The champion coach is left to experiment with quick guards AJ Coronel and Keith Pido plus Altas import Prince Eze. The Altas will also welcome newcomers Edgar Charcos, Kim Aunrin and Tonton Peralta.
The new season will be hosted by the UPHS-D Altas with the theme “Unparalleled Heights in Sports Development.”