THE LAST time a commercial team tied up with the San Sebastian College Stags, the result was a championship for Excel Roof in the farewell tournament of the now defunct Philippine Basketball League in 2010. Fast forward to today, ATC Healthcare has partnered with the Stags as LiverMarin makes its debut in the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup starting March 12 (Thursday) at the Ynares Sports Arena.
LiverMarin has been drawn to play in the tournament opener against the AMA University Titans at 12:00 PM. The team is a promising mix of current and former San Sebastian players plus free agents to complete the 14-man roster to be handled by Coach Rodney Santos, a former PBA star, national team stalwart and King Stag in the NCAA.
Leading the way for LiverMarin is team captain Jamil Ortuoste and center Bradwyn Guinto who are coming off successful stints in the recent Aspirants Cup for Racal Motors and Cebuana Lhuillier respectively. The tie-up has allowed them to be recalled for duty with the Stags.
Other Stags with D-League experience “coming home” are Leo de Vera (Tanduay Light) and Bobby Balucanag (AMA). Also in the mix is veteran Jovit de la Cruz and youngsters Michael Calisaan, Jeffrey Santos, Jerick Fabian and Ryan Costelo.
The non-San Sebastian recruits are transferees Jansen Rios (Jumbo Plastic) and Choi Ignacio (Tanduay Light) plus free agents Joseph Ambohot of Lyceum, Jhygruz Laude of Trinity and Michael Abad of Mapua Tech.
Coach Santos will be assisted on the bench by a stellar cast composed of his fellow former PBA pros in Bal “The Flash” David, Aramis “Banjo” Calpito, Junel Mendiola and Ronald Magtulis. Team managers are Albert Esposo and Matthew M. Manotoc.
“Because of our lack of height, we intend to employ a run and gun game,” said Coach Santos during the team’s recent media launch. “Our tallest player is only 6’6” in Joseph Ambohot so we will rely a lot on our team defense.”
Known by the moniker “The Slasher”, Coach Santos hopes to incorporate the same brand of play that resulted in his long PBA career into LiverMarin’s system. “The thing I like about this team is anyone can step up if given the chance, all they need is confidence,” he added.
Any day now, Coach Santos is expected to be formally installed as the Stags’ permanent head coach, a position he has been holding on an interim basis since the resignation of Coach Topex Robinson after the last NCAA wars. Hence, it will now be easier for Coach Santos to prepare both LiverMarin and the Stags for their coming tournaments.
“We practice at the school gym with the varsity from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM then rest a bit before LiverMarin’s practice immediately afterwards at the same venue,” shared Ortuoste who averaged a robust 11.4 points for Racal Motors last conference. Being a school-based squad, Coach Santos feels it was easier for them to recruit players.
San Sebastian has the distinction of being the only school since 2006 not named San Beda College to capture the NCAA Seniors plum doing the trick in 2009. Good materials, a notable recent history plus a solid coaching staff should be the right prescription for a surprise performance in their D-League debut.