CEBU CITY -- Nine-time champion University of the Visayas and last year’s losing finalist Southwestern University are the most visible teams in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi), but it was the absence of their officials that was hard to ignore during the season launch of the region's premier college league.
Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy could not hide his disappointment on Tuesday when SWU’s head coach Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba, a local coaching legend and city councilor, and UV’s mentor former PBA player Felix “The Cat” Belano, famous in the south for his quadruple-double game in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association, both missed the event at the Linea Restaurant.
The schools also failed to send an official representative to the event.
“It’s hard to bring in and invite professional coaches. Perhaps they think they are higher than the Cesafi. I hope that next time, they will be here,” said a dismayed Tiukinhoy.
The 12th season of the Cesafi opens on Sunday at the Cebu Coliseum with games in the junior and seniors divisions featuring University of San Carlos and University of San Jose-Recoletos, following the opening ceremonies which start at 2 p.m.
SWU and UV are the traditional powers in the top collegiate league down south and became more formidable with the addition of African students to their line-ups. SWU has talented wingman Ben Mbala and last year’s sensation Justin Aboude, while UV recently acquired 6-foot-8 Steve Akobo.
SWU’s athletic director Ryan Aznar said he has just arrived from Manila on Tuesday afternoon and saw the memo late, while UV’s team manager and school assistant vice-president Gerald Anthony Gullas said he was supposed to attend but had attend a funeral of a relative.
Present during the event were USJ-R head coach Edito Salacut and athletic director Dioscoro Himotas, Cebu Institute of Technology-University athletic director Alecks dela Torre and assistant coach Bem Alcaraz, University of Cebu assistant coach Jover Samonte and USC's new head coach Julian Macoy.
Also in attendance were high school coaches Jun Pepito of the defending champion UV Baby Lancers and Rommel Rasmo of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles.
While Tiukinhoy raved about the league’s prospects of drawing even more fans to the games with the presence of crack foreign players, the other coaches seemingly were resigned to the fact that it was going to be an even tougher season this time for their respective teams.
“We don’t have (Junemar) Fajardo anymore so compared to SWU and UV, I could say that these two have really strong teams. We might be able to give them a good fight but in the end, it will be very hard to match up with their height and their strength,” said Samonte, who will have a squad devoid of veterans except for star guard Brian Heruela.
The USJ-R Jaguars also lack the height to battle the behemoths of both SWU and UV, which has six players 6-foot-5 and above.
“The tall players will be a problem for us. But we started preparing immediately after last season ended. Both SWU and UV will be very difficult to beat and getting an upset against them will be hard but you never can tell,” said Himotas, who said that their realistic target is to get to the Final Four.
USC’s newly-installed head coach Macoy, who attained local fame with his 126-point game while playing for the Warriors way back in the 1950s, has a more humble target.
“This is my first time as a coach here in Cebu so I really don’t know how I will be. It will be good if USC can win a game. That’s all I want for now. Our team’s size is small but I like the heart of my players,” he said.