UAAP champion Far Eastern University will be without star guard Jerie Pingoy when it starts its title-retention bid on Thursday in the 6th FCBL-Freego Cup at the Philippine Buddhacare gym in Quezon City.
Pingoy, the biggest star to come out of FEU’s high school team since Johnny Abarrientos, has already played out his final year with the Diliman-based school and is now with Ateneo.
But even without the back-to-back UAAP junior Most Valuable Player, FEU is still considered one of the teams to beat in the nine-team tournament presented by Freego, along with National University, Chiang Kai Shek College, University of Santo Tomas, and Ateneo.
And just how ready the Baby Tamaraws are in defending their UAAP crown this coming season will be gauged when they battle the University of the East Junior Warriors – one of two newcomers in the annual pre-season high school tournament – at 3:30 p.m.
The NU Bullpups and the Jose Rizal University Light Bombers, meanwhile, get the honor to open hostilities when they clash at 10:30 a.m. before University of Perpetual Help collides with Mapua at 12:30 p.m.
Chiang Kai Shek College and Ateneo meet at 2 p.m. in an early clash of favorites in the tournament supported by Smart, Fresh Gear, Colt Commercial, Powerbest Mrkg. Inc., Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, Hapee Toothpaste and Insular Square of Cebu.
Expected to grace the simple opening ceremony of the league founded in 1985 by Lolita Tanlo and Arthur Tanlo, are Nelson Chan and Edward Tio, bosses of Einsco Co., maker of Freego jeans and shirts.
Tournament format is a single-round elimination, with the top four finishers advancing to the knockout Final Four.