THE LONG climb back to respectability for the University of the Philippines basketball program will receive a major boost as the core of the Fighting Maroons will take their act to the coming 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. Carrying the colors of QRS JAM Liner, the debuting squad will see seven incumbent varsity members joining forces with a mix of former pros and league veterans.
Talented guards Henry Asilum, Diego Dario, Paul Desiderio and Jarrell Lim will join frontliners Dave Moralde, Gelo Vito and Andrew Harris. The team will be coached by Joe Ward with Allan Gregorio as his assistant.
However, the recruits taken in to plug holes in the roster sends the message that the team intends to go far into the tournament. No less than UAAP Mythical Five member Kevin Ferrer of the University of Santo Tomas and Gelo Alolino of National University are expected to play major roles and may end up as the focal point of both the offense and defense.
Ferrer will be joined up front by ex-pros Raul Soyud and Raymond Aguilar and free agents Michole Sorela, Alfred Batino and Kyle Neypes. Alolino will anchor the backcourt together with shooter Jong Baloria, another ex-pro.
UP is making a return to the D-League after participating as Junior Powerade in the 2011 and 2012 Foundation Cups and as Derulo Accelero in the 2013-2014 Aspirants Cup. Asilum is the sole varsity player with D-League experience via Derulo hence a lot is expected from their recruits.
The Fighting Maroons began the last UAAP season on a high note by winning their first two games but won only one more time in the remaining 12 games to finish in a tie with Adamson University at the bottom of the standings at 3-11. Competing against older, stronger and experienced opposition will surely toughen the UP players for the next UAAP season.
Team sponsors QuickReliable Courier Services (QRS) is a logistics company while JAM Liner is a popular bus company that connects Metro Manila to Southern Luzon. QRS is a subsidiary of JAM and joining the D-League is part of the company’s sports advocacy program.
QRS Jam Liner-UP will take the court against Banco de Oro-NU on the second game of opening day January 21 (Thursday) at 4:00 PM at the San Juan Arena. Simple opening ceremonies will precede the first game at 1:00 PM between Tanduay Rhum and Caida Tiles.
The rest of the competing teams are CafeFrance-CEU, Phoenix Petroleum-FEU, AMA Online Education, Wang’s Basketball and Mindanao Aguilas. The 2016 Aspirants Cup is scheduled to run until the middle March.