AMA ONLINE Education has made it clear that De La Salle University superstar Jeron Teng will be their first overall selection in the PBA D-League Rookie Draft scheduled for December 20 at the PBA Cafe in Pasig City. For sure, Teng’s court skills and charisma will be a big boost to the school-based franchise that has compiled a 13-29 win-loss card in four conferences of participation under the baton of Coach Mark Herrera.
This will be the second straight year that Coach Herrera will choose a Green Archer. Last season, AMA made Julian Sargent the second overall pick but his stint lasted for only three games, all in defeat despite averaging a decent 10.0 points.
The Titans though will not be alone as they will be joined by another school-based squad from their mother league the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) in newcomer Victoria Sports-Manuel L. Quezon University. The Stallions just completed their debut season in the NAASCU wherein they made the playoffs as the eighth seed via a 7-6 record and would like to test their progress against tougher and more experienced opposition.
Handling the Stallions will be two-time NAASCU champion coach Jino Manansala of Saint Clare College who will take over the reins from his younger brother Coach JR Manansala. The elder Manansala is no stranger to the D-League having handled then expansion team Racal Motors in their first three games during the 2014-2015 Aspirants Cup.
School-based teams are required to have at least six varsity-eligible players on their roster with the number increased to nine should they wish to field a foreign student as a 10th player. Coach Herrera has not declared his final roster but the backcourt tandem of Daniel Salonga and Jason Riley have submitted their application in the hopes of joining their fellow AMA varsity teammates and guest players.
For their part, Victoria Sports has entered the names of forwards Nikko Lao and JP Baliday, guards Regi Ignacio, Jeymark Mallari and Gianne Rivera and centers Justin Padua and Jayson Grimaldo as their school-based players. Team leader Christopher Bitoon is expected to join them as a free agent having been picked in last year’s draft by CafeFrance but was left unsigned.
Riding on the crest of their championship season, seven members of the winning Saint Clare College of Caloocan also threw in their names for consideration namely Rookie of the Year Rojay Santos, Michael de Leon, Junjie Hallare, Rey de Mesa, Normel de los Reyes, Nico Principe and Godwill Calapine. The Saints have no formal tie up with any team hence they may be picked by anybody, just like the eighth Saints alumni in the draft in former NAASCU Rookie of the Year Earvin Mendoza who will likely suit up for the new club based in his native province of Batangas.
Reigning NAASCU Most Valuable Player Aris Dionisio is also expected to be a hot commodity as an undrafted rookie free agent. Adding to the list of applicants is the Philippine Christian University trio of Mythical Five member Michael Ayonayon, skipper Fidel Castro and hardworking big man JayR Yasa.
Other 16th NAASCU veterans hoping to take the next step towards professional stardom are scoring machine Dahrrel Caranguian of De Ocampo Memorial College, Rizal Technological University captain Storm Riva, do-it-all big man Andreas Cahilig of EARIST and shooter Kenneth Carongoy and shot blocking beanpole Jun Gabriel of Colegio de San Lorenzo. Bryan Daguplo, who last played for STI College in 2012, also hopes to hear his name called on the very day of his 29th birthday making him one of the elder applicants.
After AMA, it will be the turn of Tanduay Rhum, Racal Tiles, CafeFrance and returning Wang’s Basketball to dip in the pot. New teams Victoria Sports, Batangas, Cignal HD and Jose Rizal University will determine their order via lottery while 10th and final entry BluStar Detergent of Malaysia will not be part of the exercise.
Thanks in part to the extensive television coverage on Basketball TV and Solar Sports, NAASCU has definitely grown in popularity this year and the players have responded by upping their level of play hence expect the league’s products to make their mark at the next level. The 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup kicks off on January 19, 2017.