CEBU CITY - Despite Cebu's reputation as the hoops hotbed in the south, only one team from this province in Casino Active beat the deadline and committed to joining the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) in its second season.
A number of companies were said to be interested in joining the league founded by boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, including long-time Cebu basketball pillars Cebu Landmasters and M. Lhuillier.
However in the end, it was only Casino Active, a brand owned by International Pharmaceuticals Inc., that managed to confirm its participation, becoming the fourth expansion team from the south after the Davao Occidental Tigers, the Zamboanga Valientes and the General Santos Warriors.
In a meeting with Pacquiao and MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes last week, Cebu teams have expressed dismay over the lack of home games for South clubs under the league format.
Casino Active spokesperson Jerome Calatrava bared the team will be staging tryouts starting this Monday, 12 noon to 2 p.m., at the Capitol Parish Gym along Escario Street. The tryouts will last until Friday.
“We’re already in talks with several ex-pros but nothing is definite yet. That is why we’re holding the tryouts and see what our coaches can come up with,” said Calatrava.
The team is being coached by former Letran standout and PBA player Gilbert Castillo while the team manager is Mark Castillo.
The team is initially being called the Ninos but that remains a tentative moniker as it was last used by M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala in the defunct Liga Pilipas tournament.
Casino Active officials will also be meeting with Cebu City officials to talk about a possible collaboration as well as the use of Ninos as a moniker.
Calatrava said the team has already set lofty goals for its maiden season in the MPBL.
“We’ve set our eyes on making it to the semifinals. That’s it. That’s the first goal of this team,” Calatrava said.