JUDGING from the way it’s been assembling its lineup for its coming PBA D-League debut, it seems Hapee Toothpaste is already looking at a bigger goal – the Philippine Basketball Association.
Apart from being reinforced by the core of four-time NCAA champion San Beda, the Lamoiyan Corporation franchise has also attracted to its fold some of the biggest names in the UAAP today.
Information reaching Spin.ph revealed that Hapee, to be coached by Ronnie Magsanoc, has already signed up former National University star Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. last Friday.
Apart from Parks, Hapee has also acquired the services of Ateneo Fil-Am player Chris Newsome, along with La Salle big man Arnold Van Opstal and Nico Elorde.
The four are expected to complement San Beda mainstays Baser Amer, Ryusei Koga, and Ola Adeogun in the team which has a tie-up with longtime D-League powerhouse NLEX.
To give the team a veteran presence, Hapee also signed up former GlobalPort banger Marvin Hayes.
No wonder that even this early, a lot of pundits are already tagging Hapee as a legitimate title contender right on its maiden season in the developmental league.
AMA computer College Titans coach Mark Herrera has already tipped Hapee to be a title contender.
“Ang lakas ng team na yun,” said Mark Herrera, coach of AMA Computer College Titans, one of the newest members of the league.
Asked for his take on the strong composition of his team, Hapee Toothpaste team owner Dr. Cecilio Pedro opted to manage expectations.
“Parang hindi ko naman nararamdaman na malakas kami eh. Tingin ko nga mas malakas pa rin ang Cebuana Lhuillier,” said the businessman-sportsman who has won several championships in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
But Pedro, known for his pro-Pinoy product, admitted the performance of the franchise in the coming D-League season will definitely weight on his longtime dream of moving up to the big league.
“Gusto namin may laban ang team namin ngayon sa D-League. Pangit ang walang laban eh,” he said.
“Kung maganda siguro ang kakalabasan ng kampanya… we might already focus our attention to joining the PBA. The plan has always been there,” disclosed Pedro, who hopes to join one-time fellow PBL team owners Dioceldo Sy (Blackwater) and Raymund Yu and Terry Que (Rain or Shine) in the PBA.
Pedro said a letter of intent has long been drafted is just on his table waiting to be submitted to the Office of the PBA Commissioner once he decides to give the pro league a go.
At the same time, Pedro also hopes that if ever Hapee becomes a PBA expansion ballclub by next year, the league board will also allow the team to bring direct hires from its amateur squad, a privilege that was not accorded to new franchises Kia Motors and Blackwater this season.
“Sana mabigyan kami ng pagkakataon sa direct hire. We will still weigh our options then we will talk to the PBA regarding that (application),” said Pedro.