ALTHOUGH Hapee looks to be the top contender on paper, the new team is downplaying the “favorites” tag as the core has yet to train together with less than a week before the D-League Aspirants Cup unreels.
The Lamoiyan franchise boasts of a line-up that includes two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Gilas cadet member Garvo Lanete, emerging big man Arnold Van Opstal, NCAA MVP Earl Thompson, and former Ateneo star Chris Newsome.
Hapee will also have the core of the San Beda Red Lions, currently in the battle for the NCAA title against Arellano University, and coaches who attended Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum dubbed the Fresh Fighters as favorites.
But former PBA star Benjie Paras, head coach Ronnie Magsanoc's top assistant at Hapee, noted that they have yet to bring all the players together for practice for the tournament opening on October 27 at the Ynares Sports Arena.
“I can’t evaluate the team because our team is new. The coaches are new. There are only four or five regular players who are practicing. We are still waiting for the other players from San Beda,” said Paras.
“Hindi naman ’yun nakukuha sa superstars kundi kung ano ’yung role nila sa team. Kung superstars, mas mahirap. Mas malaki ang expectations.”
Eleven other teams will be trying to stop Hapee in the Aspirants Cup, led by returning teams Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, Tanduay Light (formerly Boracay Rum), Café France, Cagayan Valley, Cebuana Lhuillier, M-Builders, and Wangs Basketball comprise the returning teams.
AMA, Breadstory-Lyceum, MP Hotel Warriors, and Racal Motors are the other new squads.
“We believe that with the number of aspiring, talented players in the Philippines, there will always be new breed of players that will rise. We believe that we will still have an exciting PBA D-League this coming season,” said PBA D-League tournament director Eric Castro.