Built around the core of one-time PBA D-League champion Cafe France, Centro Escolar U has been tagged as the top title favorites in the newly-formed Universities and Colleges Basketball League, which unfolds on October 8 at the Olivarez Coliseum in Sucat, Parañaque City.
Led by Congolese center Rod Ebondo and former pro league draftee Samboy De Leon, the Scorpions are eager to bring their championship tradition in the initial staging of the seven-team tournament organized by the Universities and Colleges Athletic League, Inc. (UCAL), with Lamoiyan Corporation and Euro-Med Laboratories serving as major sponsors.
Out to foil CEU’s title bid are Technological Institute of the Philippines, Bulacan State U, Colegio de San Lorenzo, Diliman College, University of Batangas and inaugural season host Olivarez College.
“I expect the competition to be exciting. I expect them to showcase the best for this league. More or less it will be a balanced league and I’m sure it will be very competitive,” said Horacio Lim, the UCBL tournament director.
UCAL president Franklin Evidente also expressed high hopes that the tourney will gain fair success on their initial staging.
“We have lofty ambitions but we have tempered expectations. We know that this won’t be easy. We’re not looking for a one-hit wonder. Our short term plan is for three years. Hopefully we have success and all these seven teams come back for next season,” he said.
All eyes, however, will be on the Scorpions, who will also parade PBA D-League veterans Jason Opiso, JK Casiño, Joseph Manlangit and Oliver Arim, with Yong Garcia calling the shots in lieu of former mentor Egay Macaraya, who’s now handling San Sebastian on a full-time basis.
Garcia admitted filling up the role of Macaraya, who led the Scorpions to a “three-peat” in NAASCU, won’t be an easy task. “May pressure (to deliver), laging andyan naman ‘yan. Kasama sa trabaho ko ‘yun. I just have to do my best,” he said.
Handled by coach Sebastian De Vera, the Engineers are also expected to make their presence felt behind the likes of top guns Jorey Napoles, Joshua Alcober and 6-foot-10 Nigerian import Christopher Okoronkwo.
In the opener, the Sea Lions of Olivarez College take on the BulSU Gold Gears at 1 p.m. while the Engineers square off with the UB’s Brahman at 3 p.m.
The league’s protagonists will play in a double-round elimination play, with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals. The Top 2 teams will enjoy twice-to-beat advantages in the semis.
The title showdown will be a best-of-three affair, while a one-game battle will determine the third placer.
The league’s action will take place on Mondays, Thursday and Saturdays, with IBC-13 broadcasting the matches on a delayed basis.
– Jerome Lagunzad
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