College basketball season is back– and it starts with the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.
And, for the first time in three years, all 18 teams from the UAAP and the NCAA are set to compete in Philippine collegiate basketball’s biggest preseason tournament. Just like in previous editions, teams are divided into two groups. Group A consists of the De La Salle Green Archers, the San Beda Red Lions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the Letran Knights, the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers, the Lyceum Pirates, the Perpetual Altas, the University of the East Red Warriors, and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers. Group B, on the other hand, is composed of the Adamson Soaring Falcons, the Far Eastern University, the Arellano Chiefs, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, the National University Bulldogs, College of St. Benilde Blazers, Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, Mapua Cardinals and the San Sebastian Stags.
With these schools gearing up towards their respective goals in their mother leagues, numerous exciting storylines from different teams and different players can be expected in the 11th edition of the Premier Cup. These storylines or narratives can provide a glimpse to what type of seasons each team could have.
Last year, the De La Salle Green Archers established themselves early on as the best college team in the country by sweeping the 10th edition of the tournament and then went on to bag the UAAP title. In the finals of that year’s tournament, the Archers narrowly fended off a Jiovani Jalalon-led Arellano Chiefs. Jalalon went on to carry his team to the NCAA finals and be arguably the best local player in college last season. All of these– and others more– in one way or another started with the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.
With the 2017 edition set to open on May 1 (starting off with Jose Rizal vs De La Salle at 1:30 pm, Ateneo vs Lyceum at 3:15 and Adamson vs Arellano as the main event at 5 pm), here are the stories to look out for for each team in the 2017 Filoil Cup for Group B:
Adamson Soaring Falcons
For the first time in a long time, the Soaring Falcons are entering a new college basketball season as contenders. Under coaching legend Franz Pumaren, Adamson was the surprise of last year’s season as they managed to get into the quarterfinals of the 10th edition of the Filiol Premier Cup and as well as the Final Four of the UAAP. This year though, they won’t be surprising anybody.
Led by an in tact core of gunner Jerrick Ahanmisi, big man Papi Sarr, playmaker Rob Manalang and athletic forward Sean Manganti along with the additions of former back-to-back UAAP Juniors MVP Jerie Pingoy, Fil-Ams Tyrus Hill and Kurt Lojera, the Falcons look poised to top Group B– and even the UAAP.
Far Eastern University Tamaraws
An era just ended for the Tamaraws. Gone are Nash Racela, Raymar Jose and Achie Inigo– the remnants of those powerhouse FEU teams. The coaching genius Racela was known for instilling a next-man-up sytem and has greatly developed games of guys like Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Russell Escoto and many more from mere role players to eventual stars.
Now, with his older brother Olsen handling the reins for the boys from Morayta, it would be interesting to see how it pans out. The Tamaraws have no shortage for young talent with guys like Wendell Comboy, Richard Escotto and Axel Inigo along with highly publicized transferees Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani. Watch out if the elder Racela keeps up his younger brother’s old successful ways– and he can star working on it in the Filoil Premier Cup.
Arellano is now Kent Salado’s team– and it’s in capable hands. Although widely known as Jio Jalalon’s sidekick, Salado has been one of the best guards in the Philippines not in the PBA. Although possessing a suspect jumpshot, the explosive combo guard from Cagayan de Oro can still impact the game with his slashing and play making. He showed it in their past runs in the NCAA and he also showcased it in last year’s Filoil Cup where he earned a Mythical Five spot.
Even with the departure of partner Jalalon though, Salado still has a capable core around him. Joining him are the towering athletic big man Lervin Flores; solid guards Kraniel Viloria and Brylle Meca; and the streaky shooter Zach Nichols. Seeing how Salado takes up the leadership mantle and keep up the Chiefs’ elite status is one of the best narratives coming into the basketball season.
University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons
After what almost was a run to the Final Four in last year’s UAAP season, the Fighting Maroons look like they’re turning the corner from their reputation as the UAAP’s cellar dwellers. In last year’s run, veterans Jett Manuel, Dave Moralde, Henry Asilum and Paul Desiderio played huge parts. This year, however all that’s left from that core is the high-scoring Desiderio.
Desiderio will not be alone though as he will get help from holdovers Diego Dario, Noah Webb, Javi Gomez De Liano and Andrew Harris. Also joining them will be the top player in the recent high school recruiting class, Javi’s younger brother Juan. After choosing the Maroons over other powerhouse schools, the younger De Liano looks to make an immediate impact at Diliman and bring UP to competitive status. Can these guys keep the Maroons fighting?
National University Bulldogs
Alongside the Maroons, the Bulldogs look to improve on what was almost a Final Four season. Core players JJ Alejandro, Matt Salem, Rev Diputado come back into the fold, however, not returning with them will be Cameroonian behemoth Alfred Aroga and coaching savant Eric Altamirano. Both have been one of the backbones of the elite Bulldogs teams of yesteryears; Aroga has been the constant double-double machine while Altamirano has revived a once-dying NU program, piloting them to multiple Final Fours and UAAP championships and produced players like Bobby Ray Parks, Troy Rosario and Glen Khobuntin, to name a few.
There hoping to, at least replicate their achievements will be lanky Senegalese center Issa Gaye and multi-titled coach Jamike Jarin. Jarin, who has had championship coaching stints in the juniors division, the NCAA, the D-League and the PBA, will be crossing over to the UAAP after guiding the San Beda Red Lions to a championship last year. Seeing how this batch of Bulldogs adapt from Altamirano’s disciplined defensive system to Jarin’s fast paced run-and-gun brand will be intriguing to see. Jarin will get to experiment with his new boys in the biggest tournament of the preseason.
San Sebastian Stags
San Sebastian will bring back the same core it had from last year’s NCAA season and they look to
Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals
College of St. Benilde Blazers
After being the NCAA’s doormat last season, the CSB Blazers have nowhere to go but up. There to orchestrate them this year will be rookie head coach and former De La Salle star TY Tang. Tang, after retiring from professional basketball at the ripe age of 32, is looking to revive a St. Benilde program that is essentially dead.
Playing for him will be the same core of players that finished 1-17 last year; team captain Gerard Castor, the sweet-shooting Carlo Young, athletic combo guard JJ Domingo, bruising big Edward Dixon, and high-flying forward Yankie Haruna. Joining them will be former La Salle Greenhills star Unique Naboa who is looking to make himself felt in the seniors division. Can they make some noise in the NCAA or, at the very least, in this year’s Filoil tournament?