HAPEE coach Ronnie Magsanoc played down projections his team already has the championship forte, saying the Fresh Fighters are still in the early build-up for their PBA D-League Aspirants Cup campaign.
The stint marks the return of Lamoiyan Corporation in local basketball scene following its long-time stay in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
But this early, the Fresh Fighters have already been tagged as the top contender in the upcoming season-opening conference that kicks off on October 27 owing to their star-studded line-up that has already drawn comparisons to the franchise they took over -- the NLEX Road Warriors
Leading the franchise are two-time UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Gilas cadet Garvo Lanete, and collegiate standouts Arnold Van Opstal, Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, and Ola Adeogun.
But Magsanoc was quick to tone down expectations as the Fresh Fighters are still in the early stage of their preparation for the new conference.
With Hapee maintaining a tie-up with San Beda, six Red Lions have not joined the team practices due to the ongoing NCAA tournament.
One Hapee assistant coach even disclosed to Spin.ph that the coaching staff including Magsanoc and fellow deputy Benjie Paras, are forced to suit up in practices in order for the team to have enough number of players.
“Bagama’t magagaling sila, they are not used to playing with each other. We are still in a learning process. Doon muna kami sa simula at kung paano paiikutin ‘yung mga piyesa,” said Magsanoc.
Hapee is one of 12 teams seeing action in the Aspirants Cup, which is why winning the title won’t be automatic, according to the former PBA great.
“Sa dami ng mga teams, hindi ito sprint. Pang-marathon ito. Sa umpisa muna kami, bago tumingin sa dulo,” the former San Beda head coach added.
But Magsanoc welcomed his return to the coaching ranks after leading San Beda to an NCAA title in 2012 only to resign afterwards to spend more time with his family.
“Mas may flexibility na ako sa oras ngayon,” said Magsanoc, who is also one of the assistant coaches of the Ateneo Blue Eagles.