DESPITE losing its San Beda core, Cignal is still considered among the contenders in the 2017 PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
But Hawkeyes coach Boyet Fernandez is not too comfortable with the tag as the Aspirants' Cup champions parade a virtually new—yet still formidable—squad in the 11-team tournament.
“This will be a completely different conference for us. It will be another tough conference for us, but we’re all excited,” he said.
Fernandez will lean on Jason Perkins and Pamboy Raymundo in their bid for a season sweep, while enjoying new weapons at his disposal in Dan Sara, Raymar Jose, and late-addition Simon Atkins.
Their mettle, though, will be tested right away when the Hawkeyes take on newcomer Flying V in the 5 p.m. match on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Fernandez is expecting no less than a cutthroat battle against the Thunder who will be led by last conference's MVP candidate Jeron Teng.
Flying V is also reinforced by ex-pros Eric Salamat, Hans Thiele, Gab Banal, and Jerrick Cañada—all raring to redeem themselves following their respective stints in the PBA.
“With Jeron Teng in their lineup and coach Eric (Altamirano) coaching the team, this is a very strong and tough matchup for us. But we will be ready,” he said.
Meanwhile, newcomers Gamboa Coffee Mix and Zark's Burger debut in the 3 p.m. tiff.
Leo Avenido tries to revive his career after a two-year hiatus as he leads Gamboa as playing-coach.
But he will get plenty of help from former PBA players Val Acuña and Arellano against a Robbie Celiz-led Jawbreakers.