SOME of the best high school players in the country are set to cross paths as the 7th Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship formally opens on December 15 at the SGS Gym in Quezon City.
The annual high school cagefest will be made up of 12 teams from the UAAP, the NCAA, the FCAAAF, CESAFI and Northern Luzon.
"We want the current lineup of the schools," said PSSBC Commissioner Ato Badolato. "But because of some constraints, the lineup must consist of atleast eight players who are current members of the team."
Batang Gilas star Carl Tamayo will be bannering National University as RJ Abarrientos looks to wow the crowd with FEU as the two lead the standout players from the UAAP.
NCAA Finals MVP Paolo Hernandez will look to lead Mapua in the tournament in the absence of the recovering Clint Escamis as Joel Cagulangan is expected to back La Salle Greenhills in this run.
But it's not all about the two top leagues in Manila as the tournament will also showcase some of the top talents from all over the Philippines.
Highly touted prospect Harvey Pagsanjan will once again be powering FCAAF champions Hope Christian High School as top Chinese school programs Xavier and Chiang Kai Shek are also in the mix.
Reigning CESAFI champion University of Cebu will be tasked to represent Visayas as Finals MVP Jerick Jan Ranido and Ice Hontiveros look to be the next gems out of Cebu to shine.
Northern Luzon will also be represented as University of Baguio will once again look to turn heads in Manila.
With all the talents in the field, a competitive edition of the Rain or Shine-backed tournament is expected.
"Lahat naman ng teams pare-parehas, malalakas lahat," said Hope head coach Stevenson Tiu.
JRU head coach Vic Lazaro echoed his sentiments.
"Halos pare-parehas naman. Yung teams from other leagues, Final Four teams lahat," said Lazaro. "Magkakadikit lang talaga 'yung laban. Siguro 'yung preparedness lang. Sa preparation magkakatalo."
But all teams are in one in saying that the defending champion Bullpups are still the team to beat.
"Siguro NU ang team to beat kasi champions sila last year," said Mapua assistant Ian Racela. "Especially with the addition of Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao, Gerry Abadiano, kumpleto yan."