GAB Banal rekindles his partnership with coach Charles Tiu as the Datu Cup MVP signed up with Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards for the next season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
"It's a very big coup for us," said Tiu. "He was a former MVP in our league and is a very good leader. His work ethic is tremendous and he can do so many different things offensively, giving us versatility, and he's one guy we've always wanted and finally it can happen."
The two were together for Mighty Sports Philippines in the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Tournament, where the Filipinos won the championship.
They were also together at Go for Gold when the Scratchers ruled in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
Banal spent the past two MPBL seasons with Bacoor City, where he steered the Strikers to the South Division semifinals in his MVP season back in the Datu Cup.
This past Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Cup, the 6-foot-3 do-it-all forward averaged 13.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.0 steal for Bacoor City, but suffered a sprained left MCL injury that took him out of the Strikers' South Division semis loss to Basilan.
Tough as the decision was, the 29-year-old Banal is just grateful for his time with his former team.
"Bacoor City will always be in my heart. Thank you for two great years of fun memories and experiences," he said.
Banal links up with brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, as well as homegrown talent Renz Palma in Nueva Ecija, which is looking to rebound from its 10-20 showing this past season.
Also part of the rebuild is Edsel Mag-Isa, who last played for Muntinlupa.
The 6-foot-5 banger averaged 9.9 points and 5.7 rebounds and will be a homegrown player for the Rice Vanguards in their next campaign.