THE 2019 PBA D-League is expected to showcase young and talented players who could someday become the next basketball heroes in the country.
“The road to the PBA starts here (D-League), so we expect to see some of the leading basketball talents in the country,” said PBA Operations Head Eric Castro in his appearance in the 9th “Usapang Sports” presented by the Tabloid Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) at the National Press Club in Intramuros, Manila.
Castro said all 20 teams seeing action in the PBA D-League starting Feb. 14 are fielding outstanding players 17 years old and above who can be the next June Mar Fajardo, Mark Caguioa and Terrence Romeo in the PBA.
“This year’s PBA D-League teams, which include four commercial teams and champion teams from the UAAP, NCAA, NAASCU and UCBL, have assembled competitive lineups capable of winning the title,” added De Castro during the weekly sports forum supported by the Philippine Sports Commission and the National Press Club and shown live on Facebook via Glitter Livestream.
De Castro, who represented PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, said the tournament will kick off on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 with a doubleheader pitting Cignal-Ateneo against Go for Gold-St. Benilde and Marinerong Pilipno against Valencia City-San Sebastian College at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Also present during are coaches Yong Garcia of Marinerong Pilipino, Lou Gatumbato of Letran College-Petron, Jimmy Manansala of St. Clare College-Virtual Reality, Mike Saguiguit of University of Perpetual Help-Rizal, Benjie Diswe of AMA Online Education and Kristoffer Co of University of Santo Tomas-Ironcon Builders.
Garcia, one of the experienced coaches in the league, said Marinerong Pilipino will continue to fight hard despite playing against strong collegiate teams, which boast of more cohesive lineups.
“Like in the previous four conferences, Marinerong Pilipino will strive to make it all the way to the quarterfinal and even the semifinal rounds despite the limited time that we’re together,” said Garcia.
Gatumbato, who will serve as assistant coach of Bonnie Tan, said Letran will be ready for the challenge regardless of the opponent facing them.
“Letran is solid. The challenge now is for the new coaching staff to teach the players to work under a new system and set aside individual interest for the good of the team,” said Gatumbato, who holds the distinction as the third-oldest rookie at age 31 years, seven months an 17 days when he made his PBA debut for Air 21 in 2010.
Manansala, the 1977 PBA Rookie of the Year with Tanduay Rhum, said St. Clare College will continue to work hard and play hard every game.
“We (Saints) have already proven our mettle by winning three straight NAASCU titles with my son Jino as head coach. Now, it’s time to take our acts to the D-League,” said Manansala.
Saguiguit said the Altas under coach Frankie Lim will use the PBA D-League to hone the skills of their players in preparation for the NCAA.
“We have several new players who could give the team a big lift not only in the D-League but also in the NCAA,” said Saguiguit.
Diswe said the Mark Herrera-led AMA Titans are eager to improve their quarterfinal finishes in previous D-League tournaments.
“With Fil-Am Joshua Munzon joining us as this year’s No. 1 pick, AMA and coach Mark are confident that we can pull a lot of suprises even against the more-established teams,” explained Diswe.
Co, a member of the UST-Ironcon coaching staff that included coach Aldin Ayo and Boni Garcia, said the Tigers will bring several new talents, including junior players, to carry the fight.
“We’re confident our new players can get the job done under coach Ayo,” said Co.