MARINERONG Pilipino, the only club team in the field, begins its 2020 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup campaign against Karate Kid-CEU on Monday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Skippers, yet to win a title since joining the league in 2017, will be led by Jamie Malonzo and brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano.
It puts much pressure on the shoulders of coach Yong Garcia to deliver, especially with Marinerong Pilipino coming off of a runner-up finish in the Foundation Cup last season.
"Blessing in disguise sa amin yung mga players, pero kailangan pa rin namin maglaro as a team," said the soft-spoken mentor ahead of the first conference where the Skippers are regarded as one of the heavy favorites.
The Scorpions, on the other hand, are bracing for new starts as well with coach Jeff Napa now calling the shots.
Franz Diaz, Rich Guinitaran and Jordan Intic remain with Karate Kid-CEU, which will also have Jerie Pingoy, David Murrell and John Apacible in its lineup.
"Madami pa kaming kailangan ayusin, pero ang hinihingi ko lang sa players na lumaban sila," said Napa.
Gametime is at 4 p.m., following the clash between Wangs-Letran and the revamped EcoOil-La Salle at 2 p.m.
It's a challenge for the Knights, who begin their preparations for the NCAA title defense.
"Continuous learning yan para sa amin. Gusto namin maka-gain ng experience yung mga bata," said Wangs-Letran coach Bonnie Tan.
Fran Yu leads the Knights with a towering frontline of Larry Muyang, Jeo Ambohot, Ato Ular, and the comebacking Christian Fajarito.
But awaiting them is a dangerous Green Archers side, with coach Derrick Pumaren back in charge.
"We want to use this as a gauge for us to see kung nasaan na kami sa preparations namin," said Pumaren.
Justine Baltazar and Aljun Melecio will lead the fight for EcoOil-DLSU along with Fil-Ams Kameron Vales, Jeromy Hughes and Senegalese center Amadou Ndiaye.