Bannered by Gilas Pilipinas cadet Kiefer Ravena and former Rain or Shine guard TY Tang, Mighty Sports looms the team-to-beat in the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League Chairman’s Cup that gets going on Sunday at the Malolos Sports and Convention Center in Bulacan.
Bankrolled by Caesar Wongchuking and handled by former Adamson coach Mike Fermin, Mighty Sports intends to sustain its success in the amateur ranks as it also secured the services of top collegiate standouts like Perpetual Help’s Nigerian center Bright Akhuetie, ex-Mapua star Allan Mangahas and former RP Youth member Gab Banal.
Mighty Sports, fresh from topping the Republika Cup invitational tourney last month, will have its true mettle tested immediately by inaugural PCBL champion and powerhouse Jumbo Plastic in their titanic 5 p.m. collision in the opener.
Jumbo Plastic, which ruled the Founders Cup last year, is boosting its potent core built around ex-pros James Martinez, Marcy Arellano, Alvin Padilla and Finals MVP Jeff Viernes with the acquisition of Mapua’s Nigerian reinforcement Allwell Oraeme, the reigning NCAA seniors cage MVP and Rookie of the Year awardee.
Clashing in the nightcap at 7 o’clock are Sta. Lucia and Euro Med.
Completing the cast in the tourney which has two-time pro league Executive of the Year awardee Buddy Encarnado as chairman are Supremo Lex and Foton.
“We will make sure we will develop our local talents,” Encarnado said on Thursday during the league’s press launch held at Gerry’s Grill in Tomas, Morato Quezon City.
“We hope to insure providing sanctuary to all players who have gone past their school years but are preparing themselves for the professionals, and to support Philippine basketball in general,” he added.
Aside from fresh talents and African reinforcements, PCBL will also feature a new league commissioner in former Talk ’N Text coach Joel Banal, who took over from multi-titled San Beda high school mentor and many-time collegiate commissioner Ato Badolato.
“It’s going to be quick and sweet,” said Banal of the format which will see the protagonists duking it out in a double-round eliminations, with the Top 2 advancing outright to the semifinals.
The next four teams will square off in a best-of-three quarterfinal pairings. The semis and finals will also be a race-to-two affair.
The Realtors, boasting a rich championship tradition both in the PBA and the defunct PBL, are pinning their hopes mainly on Wowie Escosio, Jun Gabriel, Founders Cup Mythical Team member Mac Montilla and Cameroonian behemoth Landro Sanjo, with Bonnie Garcia calling the shots.
Several key players from Letran’s NCAA title run last year like Jom Sollano, McJour Luib and Bong Quinto will boost the Efren Garcia Jr.-coached Euro-Med, which also has the likes of former University of Santo Tomas wingman Louie Vigil, Jopher Custodio and Angelus Raymundo in its fold.
Foton, handled by Budds Reyes, is expected to lean mainly on high-scoring Levi Hernandez and former University of the Philippines stalwarts Mikee Reyes and Mark Juruena while Supremo Lex will parade the likes of Rex Leynes, Rocky Acidre and Mark Brana, with Don Rez Villamin serving as its head coach.
The fledging commercial tourney will also has Marikina Sports Center as its other venue for its matches set on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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