IF long-time cage experts are to be believed, Jose Rizal University will be one of the teams to watch in the PBA D-League,
Although one of four new teams, the Heavy Bombers are capable of pulling off major surprises when the league kicks off on Jan. 18 at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
One of the main reasons for the Heavy Bombers’ high rating in their first appearance in the league is the fact that the team is one of the few school-based squads fielding in majority of its players from the NCAA.
Experts claimed that with 10 JRU players and four reinforcements making up the team, chemistry will not be a problem for former PBA MVP-turned-coach Vergel Meneses.
Meneses,one of the PBA’s “25 Greatest Players, will rely on old reliables John Ervin Grospe, high-scoring guard Bernabe Teodoro Jr., Darius Duane Estrella, Gio Nicolo and 6-8 Cameroonian recruit Abdoulatif Poutouochi.
The 6-4 Grospe is expected to provide the leadership for the Mandaluyong-based team.
“I think he (Grospe) is now ready,” said Meneses, nicknamed “Aerial Voyager” during his playing days.
“I will push him hard this year and give him a good exposure in time for the next NCAA season.”
Teodoro, another senior player, emerged as the Heavy Bombers’ leading scorer last season.
Lasquety is a 5-11 defensive guard while Estrella is a 6-0 former NCAA junior MVP.
The other Heavy Bombers on the fold are Kristian James Astilla, Mark Justin Dela Virgen and newcomers Ivan Agustine Mate, Karl Aaron Bordon and Abdul Wadud Sawat.
“We decided to join the tournament to give our players the much-needed exposure. They will surely gain valuable experience playing againsr more seasoned opponents,” added Meneses, who will be assisted by Vic Escudero, Anthony Sangco, Vic Lazaro and George Ella.
“Win or lose, we will give our best and hope that our players will learn in every game playing against battle-tested opponents.”
Reinforcing the team are two former JRU standouts -- John Paolo Pontejos and John Derico Lopez -- along with Krenz Carlos and MacLean Sabellina.
The 5-9 Pontejos, who was drafted by KIA Mahindra in the PBA, once formed JRU’s 1-2 punch together with Bernabe.
Lopez, a 6-4 forward who played for several D-League teams, will provide a veteran presence in the middle.
Meneses also tapped former national player Romulo “Mulong” Orillosa as defensive coach.
Meneses expressed his gra- titude to Paul Supan and the JRU alumni community, headed by Cora Rodrigo, for their support.