THIS early, Centro Escolar University (CEU) has emerged as the frontrunner to romp away with the title in the coming PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
The Scorpions will have all eyes on them when the tournament kicks off on July 25 at the new Paco Arena following a remarkable campaign in the season-opening conference that saw them finish runner-up behind champion Cignal HD-Ateneo Blue Eagles despite coach Derek Pumaren making do with just an eighth-man roster.
CEU assistant coach Gabby Velasco however, was quick to deflect the tag of the Scorpions as title favorites since according to him, this will be a different team to the one that underachieved during the last D-League staging.
“The seven or six players from last conference would still be there, but the rest manggagaling sa training team namin while the others are from our recent tryouts. So this is going to be a totally different team,” said Velasco, speaking in behalf of Pumaren in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Amelie Hotel-Manila on Tuesday.
Added the former De La Salle and St. Francis of Assisi coach, “We wanted to improve and raise the basketball program of CEU that’s why we joined the D-League. So I don’t think it would be fair to look us at again with the same caliber and same strength that we have last conference.
Velasco was joined in the weekly forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Braska Restaurant, Amelie Hotel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) by Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) coach Potit De Vera, Marinero Pilipino’s Jonathan Banal, and D-League officials Mauro Bengua and Rosc Teotico.
CEU is one of six school based teams seeing action in the meet that will run until October.
Aside from the Scorpions, other school-based teams according to Teotico are AMA Titans, TIP Engineers, BRT Sumisip Basilan-St. Clare, Nailtalk-St. Dominic Savio, and McDavid La Salle Araneta University.
The rest are comprised of Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, iWalk Chargers, Italianos Homme Shoes, Hyperwash Laundromat Vipers, Sterishred Medical, Alberei Kings (Zamboanga), and Hazchem Inc.
Bengua, who is D-League tournament director, said a 14th team is still negotiating its possible entry and has been given a Monday deadline to finalize everything.
Of the 13 confirmed teams, De Vera and Banal both agreed the Scorpions are the top title contender.
“Lahat ng school-based teams siguro malakas kasi buo na sila,” said Banal. “One point against sa amin (club team), kasi kami pag pabuo pa lang medyo may chemistry problem pa.”