DEFENDING CHAMPION CafeFrance-CEU will be immediately thrust into the spotlight as the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup unravels this Thursday (June 2) with a doubleheader at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. The Bakers will parade an intact roster against a retooled Topstar ZC Mindanao Aguilas in the opening game at 2:00 PM followed by the 4:00 PM meeting between Tanduay Rhum and AMA Online Education.
The Bakers defeated the now-defunct Hapee Fresh Fighters in a thrilling three-game series for last year’s Foundation Cup and will shoot for nothing less than a repeat. Coach Edgar Macaraya will have basically the same team from the last Aspirants Cup with veteran enforcer Jam Cortes returning from an injury that kept him out from the said tournament where the Bakers lost to Phoenix Petroleum-FEU in a five-game series.
Giving the Foundation Cup an international flavor is the presence of guest team Blustar Detergent which features the core of the reigning ASEAN Basketball League champion Westports Malaysia Dragons. The Dragons will now be handled by Malaysia national coach Goh Chang Huat after Coach Ariel Vanguardia was recently hired as head coach of the PBA’s Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Speaking of Phoenix, their D-League counterpart Accelerators under Coach Eric Gonzales hope to sweep the season’s two tournaments, a feat only accomplished several times by the NLEX Road Warriors. All their UAAP-eligible players have been asked to focus on their duties with Far Eastern University so the team has taken in Alfred Batino from QRS JAM Liner and alumni Jens Knuttel as replacements.
CafeFrance’s opening day opponent Aguilas will also have a new coach with assistant coach Jade Marvin Padrigao replacing Nino Natividad after a 1-7 win-loss performance in the Aspirants Cup. Among the significant newcomers are ex-pros JR Cawaling and Roider Cabrera and Macky Acosta, Robin Rono and Mark Tano.
The former Caida Tiles will now be known as Racal Tiles hoping that the name change will likewise change their fortunes. Top rookie pick Jason Perkins, Jiovani Jalalon and Rey Nambatac have taken a leave to focus on their school teams but the Tile Masters of Coach Carlos Garcia have signed up free agents Rashawn McCarthy, Robby Celiz and Jamil Ortuoste to fill the slack.
D-League pioneer Tanduay Rhum is also expected to crowd the contenders with Coach Lawrence Chongson tinkering with his roster by acquiring five players namely Gelo Alolino, Ken Acibar, Andretti Stevens, Jovet Mendoza and Louie Vigil. The Rhum Masters hope to finally barge into the finals in their 11th straight tournament appearance.
Meanwhile, AMA Online Education of Coach Mark Herrera has harvested the remnants of Wang’s Basketball that has filed for a leave of absence. The Titans will now have a tall frontline anchored on brothers Jeff and John Montemayor and Rey Publico plus guard John Ragasa to join their six AMA varsity players who are gearing up for the coming 16th NAASCU later this year.
Tournament format will call for a two-round elimination phase, the first time the league will implement such a rule. The playoffs will have the top four teams advancing to the crossover twice-to-beat semifinals with the winners tangling in a best-of-three finale.
The Opening Day Line-ups:
AMA ONLINE EDUCATION – Jeff Montemayor, John Ragasa, Genmar Bragais, John Montemayor, Ian Macaranas, Miguel Magpantay, Jaycee Asuncion, Rey Publico, Jezer Calma, Ryan Arambulo, Ralf Olivares, Carlos Dizon, Jayson Jordan, Gene Belleza and Coach Mark Herrera.
BLUSTAR DETERGENT – Ong Wei Yong, Liaw Chee Huei, Juami Tiongson, Teo Kok Hou, Choo Wei Hong, Mohd Shazwan, Christian Palma, Wong Yi Hou, Kwaan Yoong Jin, Mak Long Seng, Gan Hong Hoong, Ma Chee Khuen, Ivan Yeo, Kuek Tian Yuan and Coach Goh Chang Huat.
CAFEFRANCE-CEU – Paul Zamar, Jason Opiso, Aaron Jeruta, Joseph Celso, Samboy de Leon, JK Casino, Mar Villahermosa, Alvin Abundo, Joseph Manlangit, Carl Bryan Cruz, O’Neil Arim, Jam Cortes, Jhan Anunciacion, Rodrigue Ebondo and Coach Edgar Macaraya.
PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU – Mac Belo, Gryann Mendoza, Roger Pogoy, Russell Escoto, Ed Daquioag, Yutien Andrada, Mike Tolomia, Ryan Pascual, Jens Knuttel, Achie Inigo, Alfred Batino, Francis Tamsi and Coach Eric Gonzalez.
RACAL TILES – Jackson Corpuz, Raphael Banal, Jamil Gabawan, Jonathan Grey, Philip Paniamogan, Janus Lozada, Dexter Maiquez, Ford Ruaya, Chris Javier, Jamil Ortuoste, Joseph Terso, Robby Celiz, Billy Ray Robles, Rashawn McCarthy and Coach Carlos Garcia.
TANDUAY RHUM – Gelo Alolino, Sandy Cenal, Adrian Santos, Jeoff Javillonar, Alfonzo Gotladera, Jaypee Belencion, Kenneth Acibar, Val Acuna, Lucas Tagarda, Jovet Mendoza, Rudy Lingganay, Reden Celda, Louie Vigil, Andretti Stevens and Coach Lawrence Chongson.
TOPSTAR ZC MINDANAO – Macky Acosta, JR Cawaling, Ar-Raouf Julkipli, Jaynard Rivera, Roider Cabrera, RJ Argamino, JR Ongteco, Robin Rono, Mark Tano, Gino Jumao-as, Dexter Garcia, Choi Ignacio Mark Sarangay, Abubakar Dadjilul and Coach Jade Marvin Padrigao.