DE LA Salle and San Beda begin preparation for their title defense in the UAAP and NCAA, respectively, when they take on separate opponents on Saturday at the start of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup seniors tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Green Archers test the mettle of reigning champion University of the East Red Warriors in the 4 p.m. encounter, while the Red Lions meet longtime nemesis Letran Knights at 2 p.m.
La Salle coach Juno Sauler hopes the Archers will be able to hurdle their first game in Group A as he sees a tough campaign ahead in their bracket.
“It’s definitely a tough group. But we will take the positives from this and learn from it,” said Sauler, fresh from his stint as active assistant coach of Barangay Ginebra in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
UE coach Derrick Pumaren makes his debut with the Warriors, and faces the same team he coached to a pair of UAAP championships in 1989 and 1990.
“Of all teams we have to play right away, it’s La Salle,” Pumaren said. “You are playing against the defending champion in the UAAP, a very confident and deep team.”
Pumaren’s team definitely needs to adjust right away after the veteran coach was named to the post just a few weeks ago.
“For sure, they are trying to learn the system. We will play La Salle with just two weeks of practice,” said Pumaren.
San Beda will be going to its game against Letran, runner-up to the Lions the past two NCAA seasons, fresh from its three-week training in Lithuania.
Lions head coach Boyet Fernandez, however, is more concerned about fatigue when it goes up against the Knights.
“I’m worried about it because we really didn’t have a good rest kasi dumating kami Tuesday and we plunged to practice right away. But ang puso ng mga bata nandiyan, kasi basta Letran hindi papatalo,” said Fernandez.
Letran has its concerns too, as the team will be playing its first competitive game without big man Raymond Almazan, who is now in the PBA playing for Rain or Shine.
“We do not have a replacement for Raymond. But we are looking for exposure and to develop team chemistry in this league,” said Letran coach Caloy Garcia.
Other seniors matches on Saturday will feature San Sebastian against University of the Philippines at 9:30 a.m., and Far Eastern University against Mapua at 11:15 a.m.