ONE OF only two remaining league pioneers, Tanduay Rhum will enter the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup with a revamped roster that will go all out to finally deliver a championship for the franchise. Coach Lawrence Chongson has built a team composed of four returnees, key veteran recruits and a promising pair of rookies from last month’s draft while removing the word “Light” from their team name.
Shooter Jaypee Belencion leads the cast of returnees together with guard Lucas Tagarda. Frontline studs Joseph Eriobu and Adrian Santos are the other two returnees.
The newcomers though are no slouch since Coach Chongson will be bringing in the tested pair of do-it-all guard Rudy Lingganay and center Pari Llagas. Also inking pacts in the offseason were guards Ryan Wetherell, Ryusei Koga and Reden Celda and forward Jeoffrey Javillonar,
Lingganay and Llagas are no strangers to the system having played under Coach Chongson at the University of the East. Koga won the Aspirants Cup last year with Hapee Toothpaste but the champs will not be around to defend their crown.
Celda and Javillonar were teammates at the UAAP 2014 champion National University Bulldogs and both saw action last year for MP Hotel and MJM Builders respectively. Wetherell, a balikbayan from California, was selected by GlobalPort in the last PBA Rookie Draft but was left unsigned.
However, the rookies could provide instant impact. Tanduay tabbed the Ateneo de Manila duo of swingman Von Pessumal in the first round and center Alfonzo Gotladera in the second round.
Pessumal was the third overall pick and is a good shooter who can complement the team’s veteran gunslingers. Gotladera was projected to be a first rounder but slid all the way to the second round and Tanduay wasted no time in selecting him at number 11.
As the Boracay Rum Waves, Tanduay made the playoffs twice during the 2011-2012 Aspirants Cup and 2013 Foundation Cup. Overall, the franchise has a win-loss record of 43-51.
Tagarda is the only remnant from the 2013 team that finished as the third seed and defeated EA Regen in the quarterfinals, 71-68. However, the Waves bowed to eventual champion Blackwater in the semifinals in three games.
In between PBA D-League tournaments, Lingganay, Santos, Llagas and Belencion saw action in the inaugural run of the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL). Lingganay was named part of the Mythical Five while Santos earned a spot in the All-Defensive Team.
Tanduay is proud that it has helped players Roi Sumang (GlobalPort) and Aljon Mariano (Ginebra) graduate to the PBA. Also gone from last year’s team are Kris Rosales, Gino Jumao-as, Raymond Ilagan, Kim Lo, Sandy Cenal, Jumbo Escueta, Robin Rono and Luigi de la Paz.
The PBA D-League Aspirants Cup will open with simple rites at the San Juan Arena on January 21 (Thursday) starting at 1:00 PM. CafeFrance, the other remaining pioneer from 2011, hopes to follow up their championship in the 2015 Foundation Cup against Tanduay, Caida Tiles, AMA Online Education, Wang’s Basketball, Banco de Oro, JAM Liner, Phoenix Petroleum and Mindanao Aguilas.