PBA D-League - Roster Previews



The PBA Developmental League will open this March 12. Finally with the demise of the Philippine Basketball League, there is now an avenue for players to showcase their talents and develop into better players.

For the teams and for the players listed in the Foundation Cup, there are a bunch of reasons why this tournament is important.

For one thing, there are a bunch of schools that are represented who will use this tournament to prepare themselves for the coming UAAP, NCAA, NCRAA, or NAASCU wars. Sure, conspicuously missing from the list are the big names from the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the DLSU Green Archers, and the FEU Tamaraws but the rest of the colleges are more or less properly represented.

While there will be age restrictions, a PBA team is free to dump their stars in their affiliates or any random squad for them to hone their talents. This is a better way to build the confidence of their young stars that are languishing as bench warmers or practice players. And yeah, sure they are flexible with age but if they are going to stick with the 17 to 26 age range, I doubt if there will be callups and drop downs in the near future. 

Another main reason is that for non-UAAP players to find exposure and recognition. One reason why the PBL was important is because it paved the way for us to know players like Gary David, Ronjay Buenafe, Larry Rodriguez, JR Quinahan and others.

And lastly, their stints in this tournament could pad their resumes if and when the young guys apply for the draft… or when the old guys get another crack in returning to the major league.

Listed here are my 13 Best Teams in the D-League.

So without further adieu… GAME STARTS NOW!


13 BLACKWATER ELITE / ARELLANO CHIEFS

Leo Isaac brings his NCAA squad to the D-League affair. While you can’t sell these guys short, I don’t think they’ll dominate the proceedings. Feel free to make me eat my words though because a coaching overlord such as Isaac could make other teams pay for underestimating them. Leading their charge is current NCAA Mythical 5 pick Adrian Celada. He is a doable prospect in the coming PBA Draft although he needs to spearhead Arellano’s rise to the top to bolster his rank. They also selected a bunch of NCAA standouts like Letran’s Jonathan Belorio, Mapua’s Ian Mazo and Jerby del Rosario, and former JRU Light Bomber Joshua Saret.

It seems Saret has been displaced off the UP roster which means he’ll get his hardcourt basketball action via the D-League. That move is kind of surprising considering that he once scored 83 points in high school which is why he became heavily scouted in the first place.

KEY PLAYERS: I guess I’m not going to name any more names. I am a huge fan of Gio Ciriacruz. I could have sworn teams would select him in the middle parts of the second round. He resembles a larger version of future Hall of Famer Bong Hawkins.  

With the way Blackwater’s squad looks, they are sorely in need of an offensive presence. I believe the offense will come via Leo Isaac’s former go-to-guy in Ciriacruz and Isaac’s current go-to-guy in Celada.


12 PC GILMORE WIZARDS

Commentating goofball and B-MEG assistant coach Richard del Rosario is the Wizards’ chief tactician. Is it safe to say that this team is B-MEG’s pseudo-affiliate? Fact is, Jonathan Fernandez, Chris Timberlake, and Val Acuna needs to develop their confidence in order to become great support players. Isn’t this what the developmental league is all about? Hell, throw in Rico Maierhofer now because he is barely used in their current setup!

Anyway on paper PC Gilmore might have a semi-promising cast but you’ll never know how their stint will turn out. Fact is, most of these guys played for the various NCAA colleges. As St. Benilde coach, Del Rosario claimed Carlo Lastimosa, Tim McCoy, Ian dela Paz, and Louie Sinco from his Blazers lineup. Allan Mangahas leads the Mapua contingent with big man Mark Sarangay. Letran will loan Frank Dysam while they get a boost from PBL vet Paul Sorongon.

I wonder if Richard del Rosario cracks a lot of jokes during practice?

KEY PLAYERS: I think St. Benilde’s Carlo Lastimosa will become an import player in the near future. He has the tools to shine and not to mention the pedigree as he is the nephew of PBA future Hall of Famer Jojo Lastimosa. In last year’s NCAA wars, he was the only bright spot in the Blazers’ subpar campaign. Allan Mangahas also needs to have a great D-League campaign. Mapua is getting no love in the NCAA and unless they get the Cardinals act going, Mangahas needs to have a great D-League to even land a spot in the draft next season.


11 FCA CULTIVATORS

There is nothing scarier than a moniker that came from a farming terminology. Arsenio “FCA coach” Dysangco (sorry but his name sounds like a farmer) has been telling everyone that they are in this league to win this league. That is easier said than done – considering the talent that they are about to face. FCA hired three players from the Mapua squad and a bunch of undrafted hopefuls.

KEY PLAYERS: Sean Co was selected by Alaska in the second round of the 2009 Draft but he never played a game for the squad. While Kelvin dela Pena has been busy benchwarming for the Alaska Aces, this second generation star (his dad is former PBA alum Sunny Co) could make a name by playing well in the D-League. Macky Acosta and Neil Pascual will join forces with Co to complete FCA’s Mapua connection. Mark Canlas is a former UST Tiger that can play all frontline positions and will try his best to follow ex-Tigers Jervy Cruz and Francis Allera in the PBA. June Dizon was Jervy’s backup in UST and while he is nothing more than a stopper, perhaps he learned a new skill.

As for JR Gerilla, he was an underrated player that was seldom used in FEU. He had more accolades in the PBL than in the UAAP. He can be a major shock trooper for PBA teams and this will be his chance to make a name for himself.

I can’t sugarcoat their chances. I guess for a veteran PBL team, you wish they brought more guns to use. I have no idea on who they’ll use as their star player but it seems like Co, Canlas, and Gerilla are the only ones that could fit the bill.

One thing’s for sure, the Cultivators are bent to reap what they want to sow!


10 FREEGO JEANS / ADAMSON FALCONS
PBA AFFILIATE: AIR21 EXPRESS

Calling this team a PBA affiliate is kind of stupid. The team is filled with Adamson players with Leo Austria at its helm. They are using this stint as tune up for their UAAP campaign. If you check out Air21, only Jay-R Reyes, Marcy Arellano, and Josh Urbiztondo are capable for downgrade. Except for Arellano who is also injured… why the hell would you downgrade these guys? Also, in case of midseason call ups, they only have college players in their lineup. These guys are ineligible for call up! Perhaps my final rant here is their ability to hang with established players and former PBA players. Even with an intact Adamson core, I don’t think they’ll leave a good taste in everyone’s mouths.

KEY PLAYERS: If I’m going to give love for this core, I have to say that the team of Lester Alvarez, Alex Nuyles, Janus Lozada, Mike Galinato, Jerick Canada, and Eric Camson can make heads turn. Individually though, perhaps Alvarez and Camson can perhaps make the second round of a PBA Draft once they applied.

Camson is a great rebounder and post up threat and in order for teams to get sold on his strengths, he needs to have a great D-League. Alvarez on the other hand, reminds you Franz Pumaren or Chris Quimpo in terms of playmaking and shot selection.


9 CAFÉ FRANCE / CENTRO ESCOLAR SCORPIONS
PBA AFFILIATE: RAIN OR SHINE ELASTO PAINTERS

Again this is a poor use of affiliation. If I was strongly dissing Freego, I don’t know if Café France has the right players to get the midseason call up. In terms of storage, they can acquire Beau Belga, TY Tang, Jervy Cruz, Josh Vanlandingham, RJ Jazul, and Jonathan Uyloan. Maybe Rain or Shine will use this team to hone the skills of their underdeveloped stalwarts?     

I honestly do not have any clue with regards to their existence. I don’t have any clue about their height, style of play, and even the tourney they are playing for (although they are listed in the 2010 NAASCU tournament). All I know is that they were one of the teams that should participate in the PBL. Their coach, Mon Jose, is a key contributor for DLSU during the 90’s. Their team is comprised of Centro Escolar University Scorpions. If I’m going to be threatened name-wise, I am going to be afraid of Axl Garcia because his name is a F’N rockstar, Mark Banas because he’ll probably get pissed all the time, and Leymund Babad because he’ll certainly get minutes for his squad. Aside from them, they enlisted the services of rookie free agent Marvin Graebel, NU’s Jewel Ponferada, and JRU’s JR Bulangis.

KEY PLAYERS: CEU is bent to become contenders in NAASCU and they are adamant that they can fulfill their dreams by joining the D-League with this kind of roster. While I don’t think they’ll do enough to win the tourney, I think they can surprise a bunch of people.

The key players are the entire CEU connection.


8 RNW PACIFIC PIPES

This is Topex Robinson’s debut as coach. Robinson last saw action for the Alaska Aces where he played two games and posted 2 rebounds and 1.5 assists. While he seems to be contented with his squad, he could have wished he had the services of Ateneo ace Ryan Buenafe. While Buenafe is open to play for the squad, Ateneo doesn’t want their star to miss out in his studies. With Buenafe gone, RNW will have to rely on a bunch of NCAA players led by an ex-San Sebastian star.

KEY PLAYERS: Vic Manuel made a name in the PBL when he was voted MVP 2010 PBL PG Flex Erase Placenta Cup. Playing for PSBA, he fits the bill as a scorer and a rebounder that can be an amazing go-to-guy during clutch situations. He is fearless and he is ambitious to break to the pros and here is the chance to prove his worth.

Another looking to redeem himself is Jim Bruce Viray. Viray is a former King Stag that had two stints with the Barako Bull franchise. He is expected to revive his scoring confidence that was lost when he became a rarely-used player for the Boosters.

Viray and Manuel should be the team’s one-two punch and is poised to lead the battles they will wage in the PBADL Foundation Cup.


7 COBRA ENERGY DRINK IRONMEN

A former powerhouse in the PBL, the Ironmen broke to the D-League when the PBL has already died. The team isn’t that souped up… but they are still contenders to the throne. Lawrence Chongson is still the team’s courtside puppet master and he hopes that he can make believers out of those who think that his team isn’t that souped up. From the NU Bulldogs, they managed to acquire Joseph Hermosisima and Melvin Baloran. Combining their efforts from the previous UAAP season will give Cobra 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.

KEY PLAYERS: Cobra will have to rely on three men to take them to the big dance. Kenneth Acibar has been a revelation for UE last season after the Warriors lost their top bigs like Elmer Espiritu, Val Acuna, and Pari Llagas to graduation.

Toti Bandaying is a former UE Warrior who was not selected in the 2009 PBA Draft. Instead of moping he looked for other avenues to claim acclaim and he got that chance in the Asean Basketball League via the Kuala Lumpur Dragons. He will take his wares to the D-League to at least claim recognition from the other PBA teams.

Perhaps their most important acquisition is the man they dubbed as “The Cobra Commander”. Paul Lee is the most sought after soon-to-be PBA rookie that is not playing in Team Pilipinas. Lee is a ferocious scorer equipped with great playmaking skills. He also has an underrated rebounding skill set. Aside from Acibar, it was Lee who did most of UE’s offensive load. You have to be nuts to not guard Lee when he lingers the paint or waits the ball to convenient return to his possession to hit a heart-breaking troika.

With the Ironmen lacking depth, expect Paul Lee to lead the charge in their quest to haul the first ever D-League crown.


6 JUNIOR POWERADE TIGERS / UP FIGHTING MAROONS
PBA AFFILIATE: POWERADE TIGERS

Now this is a mix of professional hopefuls and up and coming college bets. Ricky Dandan is poised to build UP as a contender. He is also Powerade’s assistant coach thus explains their affiliation. Admit it, you yourselves are tired of watching UP wait for the Cheerdance competition to strike gold. The Tigers can still drop a couple of their players to the D-League like Francis Allera, Jai Reyes, and Sean Anthony to hone their skills and also, they can activate rookie free agents Brian Ilad and Fil-Am John Smith to their PBA team if they stand out in the D-League. Sure, the Maroons are the whipping boys of the UAAP but hopefully they’ll get mileage from the continuing growth of Alvin Padilla, Miggy Maniego, Mark Juruena, and Magi Sison.

KEY PLAYERS: Mark Jeffries was a document away from joining the 2010 PBA Draft. He is 6’7 and reportedly plays a lot like a young Danny Seigle so let’s see if the rumor mill proves right. James Martinez was upset because he failed to play in last year’s UAAP wars so expect him to go all out if he wants to be picked in the next year’s talent-infested draft.

The person I’m expected to roar the most is Magi Sison. Sure, Sison was the perennial benchwarmer when he toured with Smart-Gilas. But don’t be shocked if he uses the things he learned during the Smart-Gilas stint for awesomeness. During last year’s UAAP wars, Sison was the only bright spot in UP’s barely-breathing season.


5 MAYNILAD WATER DRAGONS / SAN BEDA RED LIONS
PBA AFFILIATE: TALK N TEXT TROPANG TEXTERS

Just like Freego, calling themselves affiliates is stupid. Coached by Frankie Lim, none of these players are qualified for PBA callups because they are still playing for their respective colleges. Also, they are using this D-League stint in preparation for their upcoming NCAA title defense. However, this team is a notch above Freego in terms of talent. San Beda has an awesome recruitment program. Maynilad is knee-deep in talent and while I can’t rank them on top of the rankings, expect them to shock you.

And maybe… JUST MAYBE… TNT could force Jason Castro to move to its Team B if and when they are going to compete in the D-League playoffs.

I’m going to say it’s The Blur because everyone else is 27 and above.

By the way… does this league accept foreigners? I don’t think Sudan Daniel is a Fil-Am and yet he is listed in their roster.

KEY PLAYERS: Aside from Sudan Daniel who is a powerhouse in terms of scoring, rebounding, and blocking, the supporting cast of Maynilad should also be looked at. Jake Pascual, Anthony Semerad, and Dave Semerad are valuable pieces in the roster. Rome dela Rosa is a scoring wunderkind with a rich basketball heritage. Dave Marcelo plays a lot like a young Danny Ildefonso. And I believe this is Garvo Lanete’s ticket to at least claim a second round selection… in 2012. 

This team is trained to win and it will boost their stock en route to NCAA if they win this tournament.


4 MAX BOND SUPER GLUE SUMOS / UST GROWLING TIGERS

Pido Jarencio is part of the San Miguel squad so perhaps SMB will have dibs on their top guys. Basically this means professional journeyman Junjun Cabatu needs to step up his game if he wants to get selected by the Phoenix Fuel squad… or become a practice player in San Miguel. Mark Benitez played less than ten games and he will use this stint to play in more PBA games. For undrafted hopefuls like Roel Hugnatan, Japs Cuan, Leimar Navarro, and Rudy Lingganay, this is a chance to shout out to the critics on why they deserve a shot in the big leagues. With the core of UST playing, expect Pido’s run and gun style to be used feverishly.

KEY PLAYERS: UST’s offense is fun to watch. They run and run and run and run. With Chris Camus, Jeric Teng, Jeric Fortuna, Melo Afuang, and Aljon Mariano expect the Sumos to have that. However, one flaw in UST’s system is their lack of big men. That is why Cabatu, Hugnatan, and Benitez are more than welcome to strut their stuffs.

However, the addition of Reil Cervantes is what the doctor ordered. In his FEU days, Cervantes can play four positions and his offensive and defensive tenacity is highly-acclaimed in the amateur circles. Cervantes is aching in making an impact for the draft.


3 PHAREX NAPROXEN SODIUM BIDANG GENERIX

Cool name huh? It sounds more of a magic spell when dictated. I hope and pray Pharex will have the money to support their basketball team because it seems that they are committed. What you need to expect from this team is a bunch of recognition-hungry stalwarts that is basically shouting at the heavens that they deserve a PBA roster spot. The team is loaded with undrafted players from the last three years like Marlon Adolfo, James Mangahas, JR Tecson, Mac Montilla, Chester Taylor, Raymond Aguilar, and Leomar Losentes. They have a bunch of underrated collegiate veterans like Jeff Viernes and Jeff Morial. Bidang Generix’ Gian Carlo Tan is a scary tactician because he likes to steal things (meaning defense-oriented).

KEY PLAYERS: I am intrigued on how on two players: Jason Deutchman and Edwin Asoro. For Asoro, he was touted as a playing clone of Don Camaso when Asoro was still playing for NU and Harbour Centre and Camaso was playing for the Manila Metrostars. He was drafted in the second round by a talent-hungry Barako Bull squad. He failed to make the team because he lacked the skills. If I was Asoro I’d be embarrassed considering this was the same team that used seldom used-beanpole Gilbert Lao as their starting center for an entire conference. For Asoro, it is time for him to make a statement. The problem however is that almost all of the players in this roster want the same recognition he yearns.

Another problem that could be a spotlight stealer is Jason Deutchman. His name sounds imposing and while I haven’t seen him play, maybe I’d go giddy with the performance he will put up.


2 NLEX ROAD WARRIORS / SAN SEBASTIAN STAGS
PBA AFFILIATE: MERALCO BOLTS

Now this is how a PBA affiliate roster should look. Sure, NLEX is still a college-themed squad, parading the key contributors of San Sebastian. But I don’t think the Warriors will primarily rely on Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual, Ian Sangalang, and Pamboy Raymundo. They will be joined by couple of ex-pros (even if it was a mere game where he only had two turnovers in three minutes, Ford Arao still played for the Bolts), a solid crop of collegiate standouts, and a determined bunch of Fil-foreigners.

KEY PLAYERS: Calvin Abueva is a shooting guard/small forward that can score, rebound, and defend. When Jimbo Aquino graduated, he became San Sebastian’s main man. Joining him in the slasher spot is Ogie Menor.

Menor, a former San Beda Lion, was relegated to Meralco’s reserved list after the Bolts’ acquisition of Sol Mercado. There were reports that Menor is being used as trade bait to acquire the services of Renren Ritualo from Powerade but when Ritualo became a free agent, sending him away is kind of redundant. Menor is a cut above the rest and I expect him to make this stint to jumpstart his PBA career.  

Eric Salamat and Woody Co are tolerable draft prospects and they will use this chance to boost their PBA entry. Salamat needs to work on his pointguard skills though since it’s almost impossible that he will play in the PBA as a point guard.

There are a bunch of Fil-Ams playing for them like Cody Tesoro, Chris Ellis, Karl Dehasa, and former PBL-Liga Pilipinas top pick Cliff Hodge. I am looking forward to Christian Reyes, who is the younger brother of Talk N Text’s star guard Ryan Reyes.

Boyet Fernandez is happy that the management gave him a free hand in choosing his players and rightfully so, they are coupled with Cebuana as the teams to beat in this D-League.


1 CEBUANA LHUILLIER GEMS

I have a funny feeling that since Luigi Trillo is an Alaska assistant coach, they would name Cebuana as their affiliate… but I guess I was wrong.

I believe this is the team to beat. In terms of semi-pro experience, the team is loaded with players with accolades and accomplishments. Aside from this, they equipped themselves with able veterans, up and coming PBA players, and hotshot Fil-foreigners.

They have three players with PBA experience with Kelvin Gregorio who last saw action with the Sta. Lucia Realty, Benedict Fernandez who was a member of the Barako Bull Energy Boosters and the ABL’s Philippine Patriots, and Vaughn Canta, who played a couple of games as a San Miguel Beermen in the recently-concluded 2010-11 PBA Philippine Cup before getting traded to Barako Bull.

JR Sena and Pari Llagas are two former first round picks that failed to see action in the PBA. Hyram Bagatsing, Ariel Mepana, and Marvin Hayes are players from the recent draft that failed to see action in the PBA (although at least for Hayes he was picked by Alaska in the second round). Then you mix them with collegiate standouts Allein Maliksi and Kevin Alas.

And have we mentioned the two Fil-Ams?

KEY PLAYERS: AJ Mandani could surprise people but all eyes are checking out Fil-Am discovery Matthew Lee. The guy played for the UCLA Bruins. If you think this school produced trash, they you can tell that to their array of influential hoop stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Ed O’Bannon, Aaron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Earl Watson, and Baron Davis. Scouts are telling everyone that Lee plays a lot like former PBA player Kenny Evans.

Hopefully Lee plays like Kenny Evans’ Talk N Text version because the rest of his versions suck… and basically demands a lot of money that he doesn’t really deserve.  


The games will be seen on a delayed basis on IBC 13 every game day from 6 to 10pm.

GAME OVER!

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