THE PILIPINAS Commercial Basketball League (PCBL) opens its initial offering for 2016, the Chairman’s Cup, tomorrow (March 6) with simple rites followed by a doubleheader at the Malolos Sports and Convention Center starting at 3:00 PM. Expansion club and home squad Mighty Sports-Malolos will play Founders Cup champion Jumbo Plastic immediately followed by Santa Lucia Realty against Euro-Med Laboratories.
Here is a preview of the six teams that will slug it out for the crown, based on the rosters submitted prior to the media launch last March 3:
JUMBO PLASTIC LINOLEUM GIANTS – AJ Mandani, Mark Lopez, Jaymo Eguilos, Jeff Alvin Viernes, Alvin Padilla, James Martinez, Marcelino Arellano, Jay-R Taganas, Tristan Perez, Jayson Ibay, Allwell Oraeme, Allan Santos, Stephen Siruma and Coach Stevenson Tiu.
Definitely, Jumbo Plastic will have a giant-sized target on their back as five other teams try to stop their march to back-to-back trophies after winning the Founders Cup last December. The scary part is that the high-scoring duo of James Martinez (14.4 points per game) and Finals Most Valuable Player Jeff Alvin Viernes (13.6 PPG) will still be around to torment opposing defenses.
If that is not enough, Coach Stevenson Tiu will have the luxury of fielding 6’9” Nigerian Allwell Oraeme, the reigning NCAA MVP and Rookie of the Year out of Mapua Tech, to help out PCBL top rebounder Jay-R Taganas (7.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG). Returnees Marcelino Arellano, Jaymo Eguilos and Alvin Padilla are also expected to contribute along with newcomers Allan Santos, Jayson Ibay and Stephen Siruma.
SANTA LUCIA REALTORS – Wowie Escosio, Jett Vidal, James Castanarez, Raymond Ilagan, Kent Salado, Jerald Bautista, Jun Gabriel, Nicole Bangga, JR Cawaling, Jovit dela Cruz, Jam Jamito, Ryusei Koga, Landry Sanjo and Coach Boni Garcia.
Coach Boni Garcia has kept the core of the Realtors intact as they aim to rebound from a roller coaster Founders Cup where they eventually landed in Third Place. The departure of top scorer Mac Montilla will have to be made up by the tandem of Jerald Bautista (9.5 PPG) and Kent Salado (9.4 PPG).
Also expected to play major roles in the Realtors’ hunt are burly Wowie Escosio, gunslinger Jett Vidal and import Landry Sanjo from Cebu’s Southwestern University. Their other offseason acquisitions are no slouch as they landed Cagayan’s best scorer Nicole Bangga (11.1 PPG) and JR Cawaling (8.1 PPG) from Kama Motors.
EURO-MED LABORATORIES – Bong Galanza, Jopher Custodio, Alex Almario, Marte Gil, McJour Luib, Bong Quinto, Angelus Raymundo, Jessie Saitanan, Ralph Salcedo, Jomari Sollano, Jeff Tajonera, Louie Vigil and Coach Yong Garcia.
Only two players in Bong Galanza and Jopher Custodio remain from the unit that took Fourth Place in the Founders Cup but Coach Yong Garcia is awaiting several of his Centro Escolar University players seeing action in another league to complete the roster. The team scored a major coup by signing three players from NCAA champion Letran in Jomari Sollano, McJour Luib and Bong Quinto.
The Knights hope that that their winning ways will rub on to the rest of the team. Among the other prominent signings are ex-pro Angelus Raymundo and former Kama Motors players Jessie Saitanan and Marte Gil.
FOTON TOPLANDER – Mikee Reyes, Marvin Moraga, Levi Hernandez, Cedric Penaflor, Allen Enriquez, Jeric Nacpil, Jayvee Mallari, Marlon Gomez, Ed Rivera, Mark Juruena, Cedric Ablaza and Coach Jonathan Reyes.
A big plus of the Pampanga-based team is that they have the most intact roster with only one trasferee in power forward Cedric Ablaza from Santa Lucia. Levi Hernandez, the Founders Cup top scorer at 18.1 PPG, will have to work a little more to lift Foton from its dismal 3-8 win-loss record.
Coach Jonathan Reyes will also bank on Ed Rivera (11.2 PPG), Marlon Gomez (9.7 PPG), Marvin Moraga (7.8 PPG), Jeric Nacpil (7.4 PPG) and Mikee Reyes (7.0 PPG) to lead the team. The team is still in search of an import.
SUPREMO LEX BUILDERS-OLFU – Erwin Bargola, Dan Olondriz, Miguel Cabrera, King Importante, Jerome Juanico, Joseph Marquez, Rocky Acidre, Andrie Albano, Mark Brana, Jovin Datu, Martin Gozum, Jan Jamon, Rex Leynes, Mark Montuano and playing Coach Don Villamin.
The Builders may have lost key players Joseph Gabayni, Jason Escueta and Christopher Bitoon in the offseason but they hope to fill the void with veteran free agents Mark Montuano and Mark Brana up front and Rocky Acidre, Rex Leynes and Jan Jamon in the backcourt. Don Villamin will now essay his new role as the PCBL’s first ever playing coach with Ralph Rivera rising to a managerial position.
Joseph Marquez is the top returning scorer with 10.7 PPG and he is expected to lead the now bigger contingent of his fellow Our Lady of Fatima University varsity players. The Builders, who finished at the bottom of the Founders Cup, have yet to name their import.
MIGHTY SPORTS-MALOLOS – Bright Akhuetie, Gab Banal, Arvie Bringas, Mark Bringas, Tonino Gonzaga, John Lopez, Allan Mangahas, Rafael Melocoton, Mac Montilla, Rhaffy Octobre, Kiefer Ravena, James Regalado, Iron Suano, Tyrone Tang, Angelo Wongchuking and Coach Mike Fermin.
The newcomers may create the most noise with the signing of Kiefer Ravena, who could easily be the PCBL’s biggest crowd draw. Aside from Ravena, Mighty acquired the services of Bright Akhuetie of Perpetual Help as their reinforcement along with scoring machines Mac Montilla (12.5 PPG with Santa Lucia) and Allan Mangahas (11.3 PPG with Foton).
Former PBA guard Tyrone Tang will also be around to provide the veteran stability. Although representing a Central Luzon city, Mighty will also have a good number of players from the Visayas and Mindanao after conducting tryouts in Cebu City earlier this year as part of their preparations.
After opening day in Malolos City, the PCBL will play its Wednesday and Friday games at the Marikina City Sports Park while returning to Malolos for weekend games. The league is also studying the possibility of holding games in areas like Baguio, Batangas and Laguna and other Metro Manila venues.
The six teams will play a double round robin followed by the playoff rounds. The PCBL Chairman’s Cup is expected to run until May of this year under newly-appointed Commissioner Joel Banal.