After winning the inaugural staging of the Anta Rajah Cup of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, Batangas City plans to keep its lineup intact and prepare hard for the coming tournament, which is expected to become bigger with the invasion of expansion teams from the metropolis and from down south.
“That’s my plan,” Mac Tan of the Tanduay-backed Athletics told FoxSports.ph. “Pero depende rin sa management and staff.”
The Athletics have a formidable lineup composed of ex-pros Val Acuña and Lester Alvarez, two members of the San Mig Coffee champion squads; former Blackwater center Jhaymo Eguilos; forwards Bong Quinto and Paul Varilla; dependable guard Teytey Teodoro; back up center Jayson Grimaldo; and Mark Olayon to name a few.
But in the coming conference which begins June 12, Batangas City is expected to face stiff competition from other squads tinkering their lineups.
Aside from the other nine original members of the MPBL – runner-up Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Navotas, Imus, Bataan, Caloocan, Bulacan, Quezon City and Valenzuela – six new teams are about to join.
Makati, Pasig, San Juan, Laguna, Team Rizal and Manila have already signed up for the next tournament. Teams from the Visayas and Mindanao are also likely to join, making the expansion nationwide.
Tan is hoping that the recent championship experience would toughen his team moving forward.
“This championship had given us a lot of experience. Ako rin mismo. This is my first championship in the big league. I’ve been coaching in the corporate leagues, but the MPBL is the big thing,” added Tan.
Key members of the Athletics will try to push themselves even more as they expect teams to use them as a barometer.
“Magiging mas mahirap yan, sigurado yan. Maraming players ang maglalaro pa, mga players na hindi masyadong nabibigyan ng chance. Mas magiging exciting, pero mas magiging challenging,” said Acuña.
Eguilos is using the off season to recuperate from a bum knee which he banged in Game Three of their best-of-five finals series against Muntinlupa.
“Kailangan maghanda. Mas priority ko yung maging healthy ngayon, magpagaling sa knee injury. Mas mabibigat yung kasali sa susunod na tournament,” added Eguilos.