ALL eyes will be on Ateneo as the reigning back-to-back UAAP champions banner the record 20-team field in the upcoming 2019 PBA D-League season.
The Blue Eagles easily stand out among the 15 school-based teams which signed up to join the season - Ateneo's debut in the developmental league.
But Ateneo is not the lone champion taking part this season.
Three-peat NCAA champion San Beda also marks its return after a season-long hiatus, while Go for Gold-CSB also seeks to extend its reign after winning the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
Also in the fray are NAASCU titlist St. Clare and UCBL king Diliman College.
Making this year's offing all the more exciting is the entry of three other UAAP schools, namely FEU, UST, and NU, as well as NCAA contenders in Letran, Perpetual, San Sebastian, together with holdover Batangas-EAC.
Also part of the competitions are returnees Che'Lu Bar & Grill, Centro Escolar University, Marinerong Pilipino, AMA Online Education, and Wangs Basketball, and newcomers Phoenix-Enderun, McDavid, and Trinity College.
The record number of teams forced the organizers, led by PBA technical director Eric Castro, technical supervisor Roscelle Teotico, and tournament supervisor Junior Bengua, to junk the traditional two-conference format in favor of one full season, set to start on February 14 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The 20-team count bested the previous mark of 13 participating teams, which was set during the 2011 Foundation Cup and 2018 Aspirants' Cup.
AMA Online Education holds the top pick in the 2019 PBA D-League Draft, set to be held on Tuesday.