BLACKWATER Sports begins its bid for a second straight title against a familiar figure - Chris Banchero and Boracay Rum - in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup.
The Aspirants Cup opens on Thursday, with the Foundation Cup champion Elite set to clash with the Waves on the fourth playdate of the conference on November 4. The Elite play in the second game of a triple header at the JCSGO gym in Quezon City against the Waves.
Blackwater will be up against Banchero, who had signed with the Elite during the offseason only to fall on the lap of Boracay when the league declared it is holding its first-ever rookie draft.
The Waves used the first pick to acquire Banchero, the Fil-Italian guard who had played for the Asean Basketball League champion San Miguel Beermen and later with Blackwater in out of town matches.
But even without Banchero, the Elite are expected to contend for the title with Kevin Ferrer, Robby Celiz, Gio Ciriacruz, Pari Llagas, Jericho Cruz, and Justin Chua.
Meanwhile, Café France and Cagayan Valley open hostilities on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Bakers take on the Rising Suns at 2 p.m. right after the opening ceremonies at 1 p.m. to usher in the 14-team tournament.
Newcomers Deruelo Accelero Oilers and the Zambales M-Builders clash at 4 p.m.
Café France, mentored by Egay Macaraya, will have two former Cagayan Valley players on the roster in Eloy Poligrates and Ping Exciminiano for this conference alongside former NCAA Rookie of the Year Josan Nimes, Jens Knuttel, and players from Centro Escolar University.
Cagayan Valley, coached by Alvin Pua, beefed up its roster with Arellano’s John Pinto and Prince Caperal, and Don Trollano of Adamson joining holdovers Mark Cruz, Mark Bringas, and Adrian Celada.
The Oilers will parade several players from University of the Philippines with former Maroons star Paolo Mendoza as their head coach.
Raul Soyud, Henri Asilum, Julius Wong, and Moriah Gingerich are among the UP players from the Season 76 roster while former Maroon Jett Manuel and Ateneo Team B player Joma Adornado are also in the Oilers lineup.
The Junel Mendiola-mentored Zambales M-Builders will have former Perpetual Help shooter Jett Vidal and Far Eastern University stalwarts Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Gryann Mendoza, and Carl Bryan Cruz.
Banchero will actually debut for Boracay Rum on October 29, when the Waves face Deruelo Accelero on October 29 at the Arellano Gym, the same day two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks sees action for the Bulldogs against Jumbo Plastic at 12 noon.
Cebuana Lhuillier, which has a school tie-up with University of the East, plays Café France on October 31 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Big Chill, without Terrence Romeo, plays BDO on November 4.
With San Beda still campaigning in the NCAA, four-time champion NLEX will begin the conference on November 18 against Arellano-Air21.