ALL ROADS lead to the Malolos Sports and Convention Center for the grand opening of the 2016 Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL) Chairman’s Cup this Sunday (March 6), the fledgling league’s first offering after a highly successful Founders Cup last year. For sure, a lot of major developments in the offseason are sure to delight the fans.
Six teams will see action led by Founders Cup champion Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants and returnees Santa Lucia Realty, Foton Toplander, Euro-Med Laboratories and Supremo Lex Builders-OLFU. The PCBL also welcomes expansion club Mighty Sports-Malolos, a quintet to be bannered by college superstar guard Kiefer Ravena of the Ateneo de Manila.
A sure first round pick in this year’s coming PBA Rookie Draft, Ravena will finally take his talents to the commercial ball circuit after compiling a resume that includes winning championships and individual awards while serving the national team. He is also a very much sought commercial endorser with a big fan base that goes beyond the regular basketball crowd.
“We are looking forward to have Kiefer play for us,” said PCBL Chairman Manuel “Buddy” Encarnado during the recent media launch. Encarnado also introduced multi-titled coach Joel Banal as the league’s new Commissioner.
The 58-year old Banal has distinction of leading teams to championships in the PBA (Talk ‘N Text), MBA (Pasig-Rizal Pirates), NCAA (Mapua Tech Cardinals) and UAAP (Ateneo). As a player, he has served the country as skipper of the 1978 Junior National Team before embarking on a pro career with Great Taste Coffee from 1981 to 1986.
“You know me as a hands-on type of coach so I will also be a hands-on commissioner,” said Commissioner Banal. “I have seen the teams and I believe the PCBL is a good basketball product.”
His last coaching stint was back in 2012 with the PBA’s Alaska Aces. Since then, he has been focusing on running the family-owned Domuschola International School in Pasig City together with his wife, the former Jenny Mapua.
In the Founders Cup, their son Rafael played a game for Euro-Med, scoring 10 points before exiting with a shoulder injury. Another son, Gabriel, is listed on the roster of incoming team Mighty Sports.
To add some spice, the rules have been tinkered a bit with the increase in the players’ age limit to 34 years and the recruitment of one foreign player per team of unlimited height. For convenience and expediency, three of the six teams have already enlisted the services of former and current African student athletes from local schools led by reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Allwell Oraeme of Mapua Tech who will don the Jumbo Plastic jersey.
Other confirmed reinforcements are Southwestern’s Landry Sanjo (Santa Lucia) and Perpetual Help’s Bright Akhuetie (Mighty). Euro-Med is waiting for Centro Escolar’s Rodrigue Ebondo to wind up his commitments in another league while Supremo Lex and Foton are in the process of negotiating with their prospects.
Encarnado added that the team’s imports can see action up to the season’s next tournament, the Commissioner’s Cup, which will feature guest teams from overseas. The Homegrown Cup, a tournament exclusive for Filipinos, winds up the PCBL’s busy schedule for 2016.
Therefore, Filipino-foreigners will no longer be allowed to participate in all PCBL tournaments, save for those who already played in the Founders Cup. Actually, only seven such players are covered by the exemption, with Jumbo Plastic’s AJ Mandani as the lone returnee.
With the many innovations, preseason developments and a solid core of six quality teams, there is no stopping the PCBL’s rise. Fans can look forward to intense games that hope to bring back the glory days of amateur basketball.
The Chairman said it very well. “We are here not to compete with other leagues but to augment Filipino basketball.”