|Alex Mallari's brilliant D-League play earned him the third spot in the 2012 PBA Draft.|
I was checking out Twitter and then I discovered the link of The PBAologist. PBA’s resident statistical overlord Fidel Mangonon unleashed the rosters for the up and coming PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup. At first glance I am bent that the NLEX Red Warriors will NOT relinquish their all-time brilliance anytime soon.
But let’s rate the teams and the rosters they will be parading.
Game starts now.
11. INFORMATICS COLLEGE – ICONS
With a former PBA player in Mark Benitez (Sta. Lucia Realtors) and a helluva talent in Marvin Hayes, why on earth are they in this position? Well for starters, with the exception of FEU player Carl Bryan Cruz and 2009 PBA Draft undrafted player Roser Mangahas, I don’t most of the players on their roster. Jerald Bautista and Mark Anthony Montauno are Maclean Sabellina’s teammates with the STI Olympians. Moncrief Rogado is another player worth the look. Coach Jonathan Reyes will have his hands full in contending against the best of the D-League. Oh and by the way, I may be wrong but former actor Dave Brodett is part of their coaching staff.
10. CAGAYAN VALLEY RISING SUNS
In their debut season, Cagayan Valley sucked. While Gian Chiu got drafted in the third round of the 2012 PBA Draft, it just sucked even more because he was a mere bit player to their offense-defense leader Junar Arce who went home undrafted in the same event… but not to worry. While their team is far from what the NLEX or even Boracay Rum has in the moment, at least they have improved. Former San Sebastian and Sta. Lucia player Alvin Pua has built a team revolving around the likes of FEU Tams Mark Bringas and Chris Exciminiano, Letran Knight Raymond Almazan, Arellano Chiefs’ James Forrester and Andrian Celada, EAC General Franz Chiong, and DLSU forward Joshua “Spider” Webb. I think this is one opportunity Webb should not miss. After a great juniors campaign, he had a terrible seniors stint and if he wants to make a career out of basketball just like what his clan did, he needs to make a statement.
9. CAFÉ FRANCE
Amongst the PBA D-League original teams, Café France is finally realizing that an intact Division III college team can’t hold off the league’s superpowers (as much as I love your Friendship Lane when I was checking out your college, this is how I see it). That is why CEU Scorpions coach Egay Macaraya is changing things up by combining old wards like Axl Garcia, JP Magbitang, and Ryan Gallardo with UP Maroons Mark Lopez and Alvin Padilla, FEU Tamaraws Jens Knuttel, Roger Pogoy, and Gryann Mendoza, San Sebastian hotshot Lyle Antipuesto, EAC General Jan Jamon, and Mapua double-double machine Mike Parala. I guess the change was sparked with their acquisition of former injury-prone Fil-Am-turned-GlobalPort beast Jason Deutchman. While winning a title seems farfetched, I applaud their roster improvement.
8. JOSE RIZAL UNIVERSITY
I am somewhat critical with college squads posing as PBA affiliates but since they aren’t claiming any alliances, then I’m saying great for them! JRU’s coach is one of the best amateur prospects of his time and Vergel Meneses will crack the whip to propel his boys to a career beyond college basketball. Seeing action for the Bombers are Byron Villarias, Mike Mabulac, Brandon Porter, Alex Almario, Cris Dela Paz, and John Lopez who will miss the services of Nate Matute. Also joining the squad are D-League vet Jeckster Apinan, Mapua’s Ken Ighalo, San Sebastian’s Dexter Maiquez, and the Arellano trio of Rocky Acidre, John Pinto, and Prince Caperal. Khasim Mirza, who played for UST, Philippine Patriots, Meralco Bolts, and for the Air21 Express will be the team’s most experienced player.
7. BORACAY RUM
Like Kenneth Acibar before him, Lawrence Chongson’s bata Toti Bandaying failed to claim a PBA roster spot despite his obvious talents. The only thing good for him is that perhaps for the last time, he’ll lead the Waves to paradise with vets Acibar, Maclean Sabelina, Ezer Rosopa, John Foronda, and fellow 2012 undrafted player Stephen Siruma. While the duo of Erwin Cornejo and Kokoy Hermosisima were left off for this campaign, replacing them are former Adamson Falcon Roider Cabrera, NU Bulldog Glenn Khobuntin, former Blackwater Elite Jeff Viernes, and St. Benilde Blazer Paolo Taha. While it’s hard to see this team edging out NLEX, expect the Waves to change the tides of everyone’s perception.
Why is this team up top? For some insane reason, this fruity concoction has Nash Racela and a lot of major amateurs in their mix which makes me believe that this could be a MVP squad (although I find it odd that the infrastructure magnate has ventured into small enterprises. Leading the Fruiters (what the hell) is former Ateneo ace and Show Me Da Manny mainstay Jai Reyes. Jainamite after his Powerade Tigers stint saw impressive action with the ABL’s Bangkok Cobras and this could be his gateway for a PBA return. He will probably unload his passes to former Ateneo teammate 6’5 slotman Jason Escueta as well as other former and current collegiate players like San Beda’s Martin Antonio, Adamson’s Jan Colina, UP’s Mike Silungan, NU’s Joseph Terso, UE’s Gene Belleza, and St. Benilde’s Carlo Lastimosa. With just eleven players in their roster, the possibility of having Jeric Teng, Alex Nuyles, or even a random Fil-Am could catapult the squad on top of the charts.
5. ERASE XFOLIANT
In any situation, I have the utmost respect to the legend that is Aric Del Rosario which is why I’ll rate his team in the way he’ll probably inspire his players. It’s fitting that Aric will coach his Perpetual Help Altas main attraction Jeff Vidal alongside his other UPHR players like Scotty Thompson, Harold Arboleda, Femi Babayemi, Anthony Paulino, and Justine Alano. Macky Acosta, an unsigned draftee from the 2012 PBA Draft returns to the Erasers with fellow Mapuans Erwin Cornejo and Andretti Stevens. Nate Matute, Jose Rizal University’s explosive scorer joins the squad after distancing himself to the team fielded by his school. One of the team’s most known attractions has got to be Ervic Vijandre – the San Sebastian-Cavite cager known to many as the Survivor Philippines castaway who’s also Marian Rivera’s ex-boyfriend. Apart from the girlish product, there is nothing soft from what they’ll deliver.
4. CEBUANA LHUILLIER
After losing 2-time D-League MVP Vic Manuel, Lester Alvarez, Yousef Taha, and Simon Atkins to the PBA as well as Kevin Alas to NLEX, one of the leagues resident imba squads returns to topple the NLEX dynasty. The Alaska Aces affiliate is headed by former interim coach Beaujing Acot with former FCA Cultivators’ coach Arsenio Dysangco as his chief deputy. While the team has only kept James Mangahas from last year’s core, the team has acquired a lot of unsigned hopefuls from the 2012 PBA Draft like Paul Zamar, Mark Sarangay, June Dizon, JR Buensuceso, Ramon Mabayo, former NLEX player Eric Suguitan, and former Chang-Thailand Slammer Rex Leynes. One intriguing name on their roster is John Emel Rowe. According to online basketball accounts, Rowe is a 6’4 Fil-Australian who once dominated the CESAFI. It will be interesting how Rowe plays out because with his entry, the Gems will probably look awesome enough to secure a semis spot.
3. BIG CHILL
The Big Chill got a big boost in the Pinoy basketball map when four of their main guns got elevated in the PBA… and making the finals for the first time. Without Keith Jensen, Alex Mallari, Raphy Reyes, and Jewel Ponferada however, former Negros Slashers coach Robert Sison can’t just rely on vets namely Mac Montilla, Jess Villahermosa, and Allan Santos to get the Superchargers back to the finals. That’s why they acquired a bunch of big guns like former pros Vaughn Canta and Mark Canlas, the Adamson duo of Janus Lozada and Rodney Brondial, Letran big Jam Cortes, clutch Atenean Ryan Buenafe, and 2012 UAAP Mythical Fiver Terrence Romeo to kickstart their drive. With this team, I can see Big Chill making a charge for another title attempt.
2. BLACKWATER ELITE
From the guys that brought us Kelly Nabong and AJ Mandani, is a team hungry for recognition that will be led by former Ginebra quarterback Leo Isaac with UST coach and Petron deputy Pido Jarencio staying on as team consultant. While the undrafted players of last year’s core like Paul Zamar and Mark Jeffries did not return to the team, the Elite bared their climb to the top with the UST connection led by 2012 almost UAAP MVP Karim Abdul, Jeric Fortuna, and Kevin Ferrer. They will still have the tried and tested Arellano bros Gio and Isiah Ciriacruz as well as Robby Celiz with ex-Air21 player Hyram Bagatsing and former PBA first round pick Pari Llagas. Other notables include former Mapua forward Allan Mangahas (I wanted him to get drafted) and Ateneo five-peater Justin Chua. With their long tradition of success in the semi-pro circuit (connect Blackwater with the PBL’s Hapee Toothpaste), Blackwater Elite is a threat to win.
1. NLEX ROAD WARRIORS
Call them the modern day versions of Stag/Tanduay, Welcoat, and Harbour Centre for all we care but NLEX continues to be the team to beat in the D-League. And for those who thought the Road Warriors will have their hands full with the exodus of Cliff Hodge, Calvin Abueva, Chris Ellis, Emman Monfort, Dave Marcelo, Woody Co, and Jaypee Belencion to the pros – then you are mistaken. NLEX will still have the core of last conference’s title squad like former pro Borgie Hermida, Jake Pascual, Kirk Long, Smart-Gilas cadets RR Garcia and Garvo Lanete, and the Pinatubo Duo (since Abueva has moved to the PBA) of NCAA MVP Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual. Making the Road Warriors more invincible are 2-time UAAP Finals MVP Nico Salva and his Ateneo teammate Chris Sumalinog, Adamson slotman Eric Camson, San Beda guard Baser Amer, Smart-Gilas 2 standout Matt Rosser (nee Ganuelas), and Letran Knight Kevin Alas who before joining the Smart-Gilas cadet team was playing for NLEX’s archenemies the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems. I guess these new guys are the main reasons why Ateneo’s Mutt and Jeff combo of Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter are not listed in the squad. But then again, this will be a cruel joke for the rest of the league if Boyet Fernandez decides to field in these two big guns and lays waste on their competition.
If this hasn’t dawned on you yet, my choice pick to win it all this early are the NLEX Road Warriors. I mean… they could just change their name to college all-stars and it will still be spot-on for NLEX! But if there’s one thing working against the Road Warriors – it will be chemistry. Marcelo and Monfort could have used more exposure than what they got in their three conferences and Chris Ellis is averaging more in Ginebra (close to 10ppg) than what he got in NLEX (7ppg).
Is this the year that NLEX will do away of their title dominance?