THE FIRST and last time Banco de Oro teamed up with the National University basketball varsity, it was an integral part of the school ending their 60-year UAAP Seniors title drought in 2014. Two years later, both are back together again as they hope to bring back the Bulldogs to the winning track in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup.
Just like in the 2013-2014 Aspirants Cup, Banco de Oro-NU of Coach Eric Altamirano will be entering an all-National lineup. However, this time they will feature a few recent alumni.
Paolo Javelona, Cederick Labing-isa, Tristan Perez and Robin Rono are the only returnees from the 2014 team that tallied a 5-8 win-loss card, good for a tie for Eighth and Ninth Place with Cebuana Lhuillier. The 2013-2014 Aspirants Cup marked the biggest field in league history with 14 teams.
This time, it is only Javelona who was part of National’s recent UAAP campaign. Labing-isa spent time on the second team while Perez and Rono already exhausted their varsity eligibility and are coming off stints with Jumbo Plastic and Tanduay respectively in the last Foundation Cup.
Coach Altimarano will now rely heavily on 6’7” Cameroonian exchange student Alfred Aroga and scoring machine J-Jay Alejandro. Completing the roster are Rev Diputado, Paul Baliton, Mohamed Salim, Dave Wilson Yu, Ralph Tansingco and incoming transferee Matt Salem from De La Salle University.
In line with UAAP rules, only those with at least two years of UAAP experience are allowed to engage in commercial basketball. Hence, National is parading a compact 12-man roster since their rookies are still barred.
Having an all-National line-up will easily allow the Bulldogs to field Aroga, the Most Valuable Player of Finals two years ago. New D-League rules call for a school-based team to have at least nine varsity-eligible Filipino players in order to avail of the right to have one foreign student athlete.
Assisting Coach Altamirano are Joey Guanio, Victor Ycasiano and Jeff Napa. Team Manager is Fulton Su.
The Bulldogs will see action on opening day (January 21) versus another school-based team QRS JAM Liner and the core of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons at 4:00 PM. The season opener at 2:00 PM will have early favorites Tanduay Rhum and Caida Tiles.
Also competing are CafeFrance-CEU, AMA Online Education, Phoenix Petroleum-FEU, Wang’s Basketball and ZC Mindanao Aguilas. Playing against veteran opposition in the D-League will go a long way in sharpening the current Bulldogs’ bite for next UAAP wars.