HOURS BEFORE the PBA D-League would crown Cignal-San Beda as the 2017 Aspirants Cup champions, a new team that could challenge the Hawkeyes’ bid for back-to-back trophies was formally unveiled – the Flying V Thunder. To be handled by champion coach Eric Altamirano, the Thunder is set to compete in the coming Foundation Cup with a roster heavy with talent and star power.
While no specific player has been officially signed to a contract, the team has started workouts since April 3. Assisting Coach Altamirano are Joey Guanio, Victor Ycasiano, Anton Altamirano, Hubert de los Santos and Paolo Rivero with Joey Guillermo as team manager.
Coach Altamirano is no stranger to winning it all in the PBA with Purefoods in 1997 All-Filipino and the UAAP with National University in 2014 on his resume. However, success has eluded him in the D-League after two forgettable stints with Banco de Oro in the 2013-2014 and 2016 editions of the Aspirants Cup with a combined 7-15 win-loss mark but that could all change right now.
An initial glance at the prospective roster shows that it will be dominated by players from rivals De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University. There is also a sprinkling of players from College of Saint Benilde plus a couple of players who took their high school at either a LaSallian school or one run by the Jesuits.
“I leave it to management if they will continue pursue the policy of keeping the team exclusive to players from specific schools,” said Coach Altamirano. “For now, we will continue to prepare hard as management has been supportive and wants us to form a winning team.”
A concrete line-up may be ready after the Holy Week. As part of their preparations, the Thunder will see action in the 2017 FilOil Flying V Premier Cup where they will play exhibition games against selected teams beginning April 29.
“Some of the players we are targeting are still under contract with their teams so we will have to wait,” added team manager Guillermo. The team is also open to recruiting PBA reserves and free agents but further try-outs will be strictly invitational.
The arrival of the Thunder coincides with the celebration of Flying V’s 20th year in the local oil industry. The company has bankrolled several sporting events including the 11-year old FilOil Flying V Premier Cup.
Last year, Flying V started to assemble a team for the proposed Countrywide Basketball League (CWBL). The team was to represent Davao and had Coach Aric del Rosario at the helm but was disbanded after the CWBL failed to take off.