TWO new teams make their respective debuts while old timers Café France and Cagayan Valley tangle in the opening game of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup that gets underway Thursday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig.
Derulo Accelero and Zambales M-Builders clash at 4 p.m. in a battle pitting teams that has players from both the University of the Philippine and Far Eastern University.
The Oilers will be handled by former Fighting Maroon and ex-PBA player Paolo Mendoza, who built his team around the core of the UP team in the UAAP led by Henry Asilum and Raul Soyud.
The Builders meanwhile, are powered by FEU stalwarts Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Gryann Mendoza, and Bryan Cruz, with help from former Perpetual Help gunner Jett Vidal.
“We have some good players in the team but we have to catch up,” said Zambales coach Junel Mendiola, admitting the team had just been formed recently. “I think we’re solid at the wing spot, but we need help in the middle.”
Like Zambales, lack of team chemistry is also the main concerns of Café France and Cagayan Valley going to their 2 p.m. game.
The Bakers look solid at the backcourt behind the rotation of Eloy Poligrates, Ping Exciminiano, and Jens Knuttel.
But coach Egay Macaraya the team also had little time to prepare together in time for the league’s 2014 season.
“I don’t know what to expect from a new team like ours, knowing that they have yet to jell. We’ll just hope for the best and try to improve every game,” he said.
Both Poligrates and Eximiniano suited up for Cagayan Valley last season when they helped the team reached the Finals of this very same conference, giving the Bakers a slight edge owing to the pair of guards’ familiarity with the Rising Suns.
But Macaraya is also aware he may lose his backcourt trio and scoring forward Mike Parala, who all made themselves available for the Nov. 3 PBA Rookie Draft.
“Management decision was to take the risk and decided later on their replacement,” said Macaraya.
Cagayan Valley also underwent a massive makeover during the off season that saw them recruit Arellano’s John Pinto and Prince Caperal, Don Trollano of Adamson, Mapua’s Kenneth Ighalo, and Michael Mabulac of Jose Rizal University to go along with rugged forward Mark Bringas, and shooters Adrian Celeda and Jason Melano.
“It’s a strong line up,” said Macaraya of Cagayan’s new-look.
A brief opening ceremony starting at 1 p.m. ushers the 14-team tournament, with incoming PBA chairman Ramon Segismundo of Meralco welcoming the participating teams before declaring the season open.
PBA commissioner Chito Salud and outgoing PBA chairman Robert Non of Barangay Ginebra will also grace the occasion.