SAINT CLARE College of Caloocan will aim for nothing less than a successful defense of its Seniors Basketball championship as the 17th season of the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) opens on August 17, 2017 at the Cuneta Astrodome. Reigning league Most Valuable Player Aris Dionisio will still be the Saints’ main weapon but he will get a lot of help this time.
The 6’4” Dionisio will lead the frontline on both offense and defense along with fellow veterans Rey de Mesa, Junjie Hallare and Mark Puspus. The Saints also recruited a new exchange student in 6’6” Mohamed Pare.
However, the backcourt will get a big boost with the return of 2016 Mythical Five member Rafael Rebugio who briefly left Saint Clare for a semester after their championship run but has since re-enrolled. Also making a comeback after a one-year absence is 2014 Rookie of the Year Earvin Mendoza who decided to play out his remaining year of eligibility.
Helping out at the guard spots will be transfers Joshua Alcober and CJ Catura to join holdovers Michael de Leon, Russel Fuentes and Irven Palencia. Completing Saint Clare’s 16-man roster are newcomers Gio Calacalsada, Ray Rubio, Lester Tamayo and Krizian Louie Gonzales.
Both Dionisio and Mendoza will be coming off good seasons in the PBA D-League. Dionisio first dribbled for Victoria Sports before transferring to Flying V while Mendoza saw action with his hometown squad Batangas.
Despite performing below expectations in the preseason tilt held in Pasig City last April, Coach Jino Manansala remains confident that his team will do better once the real battles begins. For sure, a lot of developments transpired between then and now with Coach Manansala and his staff making the necessary roster changes.
Saint Clare won their second NAASCU Seniors crown last year at the expense of first-time finalist Our Lady of Fatima University. The Saints will open their title defense by taking on dangerous Philippine Christian University on opening day starting at 2:00 PM.