AFTER six years away from top-level basketball, Hapee Toothpaste team owner Cecilio Pedro feels now is the right time to reclaim its one lofty position in the sport.
A winner of several championships in the amateur-commercial Philippine Basketball League, Hapee is now looking to make a mark in the PBA Developmental League, and Pedro said it is the first step towards fulfilling his longtime dream of joining the PBA.
Rain or Shine (formerly Welcoat) and Blackwater (formerly Blu Detergent), Hapee’s PBL rivals, are now part of the PBA.
Pedro said he doesn't want to rush things as far joining the pro league is concerned, intending to first re-introduce itself in basketball again, but hinted they could be ready in a year's time.
“Wala kaming time frame eh (as far as joining the PBA is concerned), pero di pa puwede, but in a very short time, we have to get our feet wet kaya babalik muna kami sa (D-League) basketball,” Pedro told sportswriters during Thursday’s press launch of the Hapee Toothpaste squad in its head office in Paranaque.
After their time in the PBL, Pedro said they channeled their financial resources to Hope Christian High School, which has become a basketball powerhouse in the Filipino-Chinese high school level after supporting the Chinese school for the last five years.
“It’s been about five years or more (of absence) kasi pumasok kami sa high school eh, but now we come back, and hopefully, in a year’s time we should be ready (to join the PBA),” he added.
“Depende rin sa PBA eh kung gusto nila pumasok ang Hapee, but kung handa sila, then why not?”
Hapee marks its return in basketball by using the franchise of NLEX in the PBA D-League. NLEX, which reigned supreme in six of the PBA D-League’s first seven conferences, bought the PBA franchise of Air21 Express last June.
Pedro’s team, which will be known for its monicker Fresh Fighters, will be bannered by six players from reigning NCAA champion San Beda led by Baser Amer, Ryusei Koga, and Ola Adeogun.
Hapee’s team is further boosted with the signing of former two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Ateneo gunner Chris Newsome as well as La Salle center Arnold Van Opstal.
PBA media bureau chief Willy Marcial said just like this season’s expansion teams Blackwater and Kia Motors, said the first step for Hapee is to write a formal letter of intent of its PBA plans.
“Siyempre, kailangan mag-okay muna sa board of governors, sila kasi magsasabi na open na ang liga na tumanggap ng bagong teams. Ngayon, pag sinabi nilang okay ang liga (for expansion), susulat na sila (Happe and other potential applicants) ng letter of intent, then diretso na sa process,” Marcial said.