ANOTHER SEASON of the Philippines’ oldest varsity sports league the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will commence this Saturday (June 25) with a blockbuster doubleheader at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. Defending champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran opens its title retention bid against season host San Beda College at 2:00 PM followed by the 4:00 PM meeting between contenders Mapua Institute of Technology and Jose Rizal University.
A slam bang opening ceremony is expected to unfurl, highlighted by the retirement of San Beda’s jersey #14 in honor of cage legend Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga. The award will be bestowed posthumously as Loyzaga passed away earlier this year and will be represented by his eldest son Chito and members of the family.
This year’s theme is “Sports Builds Character”, a play on the initials of host SBC. Fr. Aloysius Maranan OSB will lead the NCAA Policy Board, Jose Mari Lacson will chair the Management Committee while veteran broadcaster Dr. Andy Jao has been appointed as the season’s Basketball Commissioner.
All eyes will be on Letran as the Knights try to prove that last year’s championship won at the expense of the San Beda Red Lions was no fluke. The Knights will parade new coach Jeff Napa who takes over from champion mentor Aldin Ayo who left for another league.
The Red Lions want nothing less than redemption as they try to start another dynasty after their winning run ended at six seasons. The hosts will have a rookie-laden roster after their starting five graduated.
Expected to crowd Letran and San Beda are dangerous Arellano University and mysterious Jose Rizal. The Chiefs and wunderkind guard Jiovani Jalalon served notice of their title intentions by dominating the preseason tournaments while Coach Vergel Meneses declined to field his Heavy Bombers in the major summer leagues but retain an intact core group.
Also expected to crowd for Final Four appearances are dark horses Mapua and University of Perpetual Help System-Dalta who are both building their fortunes around a pair of exchange students from Nigeria. The Cardinals will go a long way with last season’s Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year Allwell Oraeme in harness while the Altas’ Filipino crew will have to work double to support double-double machine Bright Akhuetie.
The rest of the field – San Sebastian College, Lyceum of the Philippines University, College of Saint Benilde and Emilio Aguinaldo College – continue to be on the rebuilding path and will be happy to pull off an upset or two along the way. Of the four, it could be the Stags of San Sebastian that could raise eyebrows with the hiring of multi-titled coach and alumnus Edgar Macaraya.
Meanwhile, the San Beda-Rizal Red Cubs gun for an unprecedented eighth straight Juniors Division championship. Because of the implementation of the K-12 program this academic year, most of the teams will be having basically the same rosters from last year thus setting the stage for another wide-open race.
The Seniors Division Line-Ups:
ARELLANO – Ariel Aguilar, Rence Alcoriza, Julius Cadavi, Michael Canete, Allen Enriquez, Lervin Flores, Donald Gumaru, Adam Gupilan, Dioncee Holts, Jiovani Jalalon, Brylle Meca, Zach Nicholls, Kent Salado, Kraniel Villoria and Kenneth Zamora and Coach Jerry Codinera;
EMILIO AGUINALDO – Gab Aguas, Dan Corilla Jeric Diego, Edric Estacio, Jozhua General, Jervin Guzman, Igee King, Hamadou Laminou, Irvin Mendoza, Jorem Morada, Francis Munsayac, Sean Neri, Sidney Onwubere, Raymund Pascua and Jerald Serrano and Coach Ariel Sison;
JOSE RIZAL – Abdul Razak Abdulwahab, James Astilla, Keanu Caballero, Andrei Dada, Jordan de la Paz, Mark de la Virgen, Paolo Evardo, Ervin Grospe, Gio Lasquety, Jonathan Mendoza, Paulo Pontejos, Abdoul Poutouchi, Jed Saavedra and Bernabe Teodoro and Coach Vergel Meneses;
LETRAN – Jeo Ambohot, Felix Apreku, Christian Balagasay, Jerrick Balanza, Matthew Bernabe, JP Calvo, Isan de la Pena, McJour Luib, Rey Nambatac, Jap Pambid, Bong Quinto, Carlo Sario, Jomari Sollano, Renato Ular and Lance Vacaro and Coach Jeff Napa;
LYCEUM – Shaq Alanes, Adrian Alban, Jesper Aya-ay, Wilson Baltazar, Jebb Bulawan, Reymar Caduyac, Joseph Gabayni, Jason Li, Allyn Malabanan, Edcor Marata, Mike Harry Nzeusseu, Johann Rubite, Aldrin Serafica, PJ Soliman and Khen Soriano and Coach Topex Robinson;
MAPUA TECH – Dennel Aguirre, Exe Biteng, Christian Bunag, Arvin de la Cruz, Tura de la Rosa, Joseph Eriobu, Andrew Estrella, CJ Isit, Kenneth Magboo, Darell Menina, Allwell Oraeme, Almel Orquina, Raf Raflores, Justin Serrano and Laurenz Victoria and Coach Atoy Co;
PERPETUAL HELP – Bright Akhuetie, Niko Cabiltes, AJ Coronel, Gab Dagangon, Gerald Dizon, Prince Eze, Ric Gallardo, Jack Hao, Rommel Mangalino, Kevin Oliveria, Keith Pido, Flash Sadiwa, Daryl Singontiko, JG Ylagan and Jon Yuhico and Coach Jimwel Gican;
SAINT BENILDE – Kendrix Belgica, Gerard Castor, Edward Dixon, JJ Domingo, JS Domingo, Christian Fajarito, Yankie Haruna, Clement Leutcheu, Freddy Pajarillaga, Louie Pasamante, Eric Pili, Fons Saavedra, Dino San Juan, Rene Sta. Maria and Carlo Young and Coach Gabby Velasco;
SAN BEDA – Ben Adamos, Kenneth Alas, Robert Bolick, Jun Bonsubre, Kyle Carlos, Javee Mocon, William Navarro, Arnaud Noah, Calvin Oftana, Davon Potts, Jose Presbitero, Dan Sara, AC Soberano, Donald Tankoua and Ranbill Tongco and Coach Jamike Jarin;
SAN SEBASTIAN – Alvin Baetiong, Allyn Bulanadi, Michael Calisaan, Aljon Capobres, Jayson David, Jerick Fabian, Alfren Gayosa, Arkie Ilagan, McKevin Johnson, Justine Mercado, Dale Miguel, Bryan Quipse ad Chester Sera Josef and Coach Edgar Macaraya.