The traditional show of unity by 10 coaches before the war begins on July 7.
UNIVERSITY OF Perpetual Help System-Dalta will be the host of the 94th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as they open its centerpiece basketball tournament on Saturday (July 7) at the Mall of Asia Arena. “Unparalleled Heights In Sports Development” is this season’s theme as the country’s oldest collegiate sports organization also aims to build the student athletes’ character, leadership skills and values. Here are capsule previews of the 10 participating basketball varsities:
SAN BEDA UNIVERSITY (Defending Champion, 19-2 in Season 93)
Championship experience was very vital in the then San Beda College Red Lions’ ascent to their 21st championship as that same experience will be the key as they return a nearly intact roster for their first campaign since attaining university status in the offseason. Coach Boyet Fernandez admits that it gets tougher as they shoot for another three-peat as all the teams have beefed up with one goal of dethroning the holders. Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon and Donald Tankoua will spearhead the title defense with arguably the deepest bench in the league that also counts top rookie prospect Evan Nelle from the Red Cubs.
Franz Abuda, Robert Bolick, Jeramer Cabanag, James Canlas, Kenmark Carino, Damie Cuntapay, Clint Doliguez, Toba Eugene, Javee Mocon, Evan Nelle, Calvin Oftana, Jose Presbitero, AC Soberano, Donald Tankoua and Ranbill Tongco.
LYCEUM OF THE PHILIPPINES UNIVERSITY (Runner-Up, 18-2)
Talk about heartbreak, the Pirates swept the elimination round and earned an outright spot in the championship series but it was their turn to be swept. Instead of sulking, the team picked up the pieces and won the Philippine Collegiate Champions League as well as the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup under the name of Zark’s Burger. Coach Topex Robinson will likewise enjoy the benefit of an almost intact lineup as they continue their goal of playing inspirational basketball behind MVP contender CJ Perez, Mike Harry Nzeusseu and twin brothers Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino.
Mer Jesper Ayaay, Reymar Caduyac, Kim Cinco, Nino Ibanez, Carl Lumbao, Jaycee Marcelino, Jayvee Marcelino, Mike Harry Nzeusseu, CJ Perez, Spencer Pretta, Jeffrey Santos, Jeric Serrano, Ralph Tansingco, Enoch Valdez and Rhanzelle Yong.
SAN SEBASTIAN COLLEGE (11-10)
The Stags were just one win away from barging into the championship series but fell short so this time Coach Edgar Macaraya and the team will try again to bring back the championship they last won in 2009. Although rocked by a lot of player movements in the offseason, the team is looking forward to a banner year as returning veteran Michael Calisaan hopes to give it one final push before graduation aided by a pool of promising rookies fresh from their high school program.
Peter Arciaga, Michael Are, Kevin Baytan, Allyn Bulanadi, Michael Calisaan, JM Calma, Aljon Capobres, Arjan de la Cruz, Alex Desoyo, RK Ilagan, Jerico Isidro, Hosea Mananquil, Jessie Sumoda, Ian Valdez and Kenneth Villapando.
JOSE RIZAL UNIVERSITY (9-10)
Don’t sell the Heavy Bombers short despite their so-so performance in the preseason tournaments like the FilOil Flying V and Smart UCBL and even the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. Coach Vergel Meneses, the longest tenured coach in the league, is known to consistently weave magic when the games really count and pundits are just surprised that his wards are in the Final Four. Guards Jonathan Jed Mendoza and Mark Justin de la Virgen have stepped up as of late and loom as the team leaders this season.
Ronnie Aguilar, Aaron Bordon, Richard David, Ry de la Rosa, Mark Justin de la Virgen, Axel Doromal, Leonardo Esguerra, Darius Estrella, Mark Mallari, Jonathan Jed Mendoza, Agem Miranda, Justin Padua, Jarvy Ramos, Serafin Santos and Junmark Silvarez.
COLEGIO DE SAN JUAN DE LETRAN (10-10)
As he enters his third season, a lot is expected from Coach Jeff Napa as he has now had time to implement his system and bring in recruits since taking over after the Knights’ championship run in 2015. The prospect of another title looks juicy as Coach Napa has brought in the needed size as well as a youth brigade to help out veterans point guard John Paul Calvo, national player Jeo Ambohot and versatile forward Bong Quinto, whose preseason performance indicates a possibility of being the first former NCAA Juniors Most Valuable Player to earn the same award in the Seniors Division in a long while.
Evan Agbong, Jeo Ambohot, Christian Balagasay, Jerrick Balanza, Shamsneh Banez, Edson Batiller, John Paul Calvo, Jason Celis, Christian Fajarito, Nicolo Galvelo, Alex Mandreza, Larry Muyang, Bong Quinto, Jeremiah Taladua and Fran Yu.
ARELLANO UNIVERSITY (9-10)
The Chiefs managed to reach the NCAA Finals twice in school history both under the watch of Coach Jerry Codinera but this time it will be challenging as the program is in transition with the departure of many veterans and the presence of a young core. Guard Kent Salado was supposed to carry the team until an offseason injury forced him out so expect the likes of Michael Canete, Rence Alcoriza, Archie Concepcion and Brylle Meca to try to fill the gap.
Osama Abdurasad, Adrian Alban, Rence Alcoriza, Daniel Bayla, Michael Canete, Manu Codinera, Archie Concepcion, Levi de la Cruz, Guilmer de la Torre, Brylle Meca, Elie Ongolo Ongolo, Jan Sacramento, Ronan Santos, Maui Sera Josef and Kraniel Villoria.
EMILIO AGUINALDO COLLEGE (7-11)
Things were going well for the Generals until center Hamadou Laminou sustained a serious knee injury and it was all downhill from there. The Generals had a forgettable preseason, including a winless stint in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup, but that should all change as Laminou has been cleared to play and Coach Ariel Sison needs to extract the best from the local crew led by Jerome Garcia and Renzo Tampoc plus promising rookie Maui Cruz, last season’s top scorer in the Juniors Division with EAC’s Immaculate Conception Academy Brigadiers.
CJ Cadua, Juju Bautista, Rustan Bugarin, Maui Cruz, Jeric Diego, Jerome Garcia, Rodney Fuentes, Hamadou Laminou, Renz Gonzales, Jethro Mendoza, John Paul Maguliano, Sean Neri, Arjell Natividad, Ralph Vincent Robin and Renzo Tampoc.
COLLEGE OF SAINT BENILDE (4-14)
In his rookie season, Coach Tyrone Tang chalked up a relatively okay 4-14 record compared to the previous team that almost went winless until winning their final game of the season in 2016. The Blazers raised a lot of eyebrows in the preseason owing to their impressive run in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup wherein they reached the semifinals behind the efforts of super rookie Justin Gutang and the improved play of Edward Dixon, Unique Naboa and Clement Leutcheu and Yankie Haruna who is coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him last season.
Joshua Barnes, Kendrix Belgica, Prince Carlos, Edward Dixon, JJ Domingo, Justin Gutang, Yankie Haruna, Clement Leutcheu, Unique Naboa, Robi Nayve, RR Pagulayan, Jimboy Pasturan, Luigi Velasco and Carlo Young.
UNIVERSITY OF PERPETUAL HELP SYSTEM-DALTA (4-14)
As the season hosts, the Altas made sure they would be contenders by bringing in four-time NCAA champion coach Frankie Lim. The new mentor immediately cleaned house and brought in his style that brought titles to his alma mater San Beda from 2007 to 2011. However, the results may not be instant as he is promising to the community that he is going to build a winning team for the years to come so for now, the Altas will rely heavily on defensive ace Prince Eze and a trio of impressive transferees in Kim Aurin, Edgar Charcos and Rey Anthony Peralta.
Kim Aurin, Kobe Canoy, Edgar Charcos, AJ Coronel, Jasper Cuevas, Prince Eze, Glenn Gallardo, Krystoffe Jimenez, Rommel Mangalino, Jerome Pasia, Jesmar Pedrosa, Rey Anthony Peralta, Jielo Razon, Luke Sese and Anton Tamayo.
MAPUA UNIVERSITY (3-15)
The cellar-dweller Cardinals were also another surprise team in the preseason as they opened the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup with a four-win run until they faced the heavyweights and dropped their last five assignments. In recent years, manpower shortage has been a constant problem for Coach Atoy Co but he promises that his team will always give it their best effort. A big positive for the program is that they are slowly getting in stalwarts from their winning Juniors program as former Red Robins are forming the core of the Seniors squad in Denniel Aguirre, Laurenz Paul Victoria, Noah Lugo and Warren Bonifacio.
Denniel Aguirre, Jesper Bautista, Exequiel Biteng, Warren Bonifacio, Christian Bunag, John Carandang, Arvin Gamboa, Joaqui Garcia, Erick Jabel, Noah Lugo, Herson Pajarillo, Cedric Pelayo, Jasper Salenga, Justin Serrano and Laurenz Paul Victoria.
94th NCAA Commissioner Arturo Cristobal
Commissioner Arturo “Bai” Cristobal will serve another term as league commissioner. Tapped to officiate the games are referees from UBRA, an organization with previous experience in handling the NCRAA tournament earlier this year.
As per league tradition, the host Altas will tangle with the defending champion Red Lions on opening day at 2:00 PM after the opening ceremonies at 12:00 PM. It will be followed by the equally tasty matchup between the Pirates and the Stags at 4:00 PM.
Games will be held every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City. Selected games will be played in school campuses as part of the “NCAA On Tour”, a practice that began last season in hopes of bringing the games closer to the students.