CEBU CITY - Southwestern University quickly reloaded a decimated lineup heading to its highly-awaited debut in the 7th Filoil Flying V Premier Cup this Saturday at The Arena.
The Cobras, backed by M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala, will be without their key players when they clash with five-time UAAP defending champion Ateneo in the main game of a triple header scheduled on opening day.
Star big man Ben Mbala will be the most glaring absentee in SWU’s roster after the Cameroonian big man committed to play for La Salle in the UAAP.
Also gone from the team are starting point guard Joseph Nalos, who transferred to Adamson, and senior back-up guard Junrey Ortuyo.
All three played major roles in the Cobra’s successful title run in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc (Cesafi) last year.
Fabrice Siewe, a 17-year-old 6-foot-11 prodigy, is expected to fill in the void left by Mbala. Also strengthening the Cobras’ frontline are the Fil-Am trio of Francis Ortega (6-foot-4), Raymart Acuno (6-foot-7), and Melvin Holper (6-foot-4 and younger brother of former PBA player Michael Holper).
Head coach Raul `Yayoy’ Alcoseba emphasized that he’d rather work on the team’s cohesion than rue the absence of its former star players.
“We compete as a team. Ben was just one player. He was a great player but just one player,” said Alcoseba.
“I will admit that with the new additions, we’re still trying to find our rhythm and our cohesiveness. I believe that this stint will be a great experience not just for our players but for the coaching staff as well.”
Other members of the team are veterans Mark Panerio, NJ Otida, and Jabby Bautista, both of whom are transferees from University of San Carlos.