CEBU CITY – Reigning Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) champion Southwestern University suffered a big blow in its title retention bid as its tall frontcourt was cut down to size after four of the team’s big men were deemed ineligible to play.
Congolese Mupungu Boko, veteran forwards Bernie Bregondo and Daryl Goloran, and up-and-coming center Rey Mark Acuno were found not eligible to play due to academic issues just two weeks before the league’s 15th season kicks off.
The development was confirmed to Spin.ph by SWU coach Raul ‘Yayoy’ Alcoseba himself and school athletic director Ryan Aznar.
Aside from the four, also expected to sit out the season for the same reason is gunner Anton Pardo.
The absence of Boko and Co. left the Cobras lacking in heft and height against a tough field all looking to dethrone the champions, including last year’s runner-up University of San Carlos and nine-time titlist University of the Visayas.
The Cobras will actually have University of San Carlos as their opening day assignment on August 3.
Alcoseba, the outspoken and fiery mentor of the Cobras, said he’ll just to make do with whatever is left of his lineup.
“I will coach whatever is left of our team,” said Alcoseba, a Cebu provincial board member.
Left to man the frontcourt for the Cobras are Melvin Holper, brother of former PBA player Mike Holper, Filipino-Samoan Juju Bautista, rookie Kier Clam, Mac Racho, and new recruit Janjan Auditor.
A former teammate of reigning PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo at the University of Cebu, Auditor chose to play his final year of eligibility with the Cobras in the hope of ending his collegiate career in a blaze of glory.
Despite the team’s current predicament, Auditor is still confident with the remaining players SWU have.
“I’m so unlucky,” said Auditor with a hearty laugh.
“But really, it’s a big challenge for us because SWU is the defending champion and the basketball fans are expecting a lot from us and the team this season. But it looks like we’re the underdogs now.
“But we will play with all of our heart and we will do our best. I’m still confident with the team we have. I trust the guys we have here,” he added.
While the frontcourt has been laid bare, the Cobras remain a formidable force at the backcourt with the presence of former Far Eastern University guard Jun Luz and league reigning two-time MVP Mark Jayven Tallo, who expressed excitement despite the daunting task tahead.
“Well everybody should step up including myself. Consistency is very important in every game. Yun lang naman,” said the former La Salle Green Archer.