Chongson believes his Tanduay squad has advantage in Aspirants Cup

PBA (file photo)

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--As a new PBA D-League season beckons and with some of the top guys from last season already leaving for the top-tier cagefest, all the holdover teams made a major retooling to their lineups.

But for Tanduay coach Lawrence Chongson, he thinks his squad is the heavy favorite for the Aspirants' Cup set to tip off on Thursday.

"I think we have a slight edge from the field with the team we have," he said.

The Rhum Masters took the services of former PBA young guns Mark Cruz and Raphy Reyes along with Jom Sollano, the second overall pick of the D-League Draft on Jan. 20 to bolster their solid core led by Louie Vigil and Jaymo Eguilos.

On the other hand, Cafe France-CEU coach Egay Macaraya vows that despite the loss to key players Samboy De Leon and Mon Abundo, his team can still be a force to reckon with.

"We have a very young team, but rest assured that what we have will be a very competitive team this conference," said Macaraya in particular.

The Bakers will once again be led by the core of the CEU Scorpions team that won last year's UCBL crown led by Rod Ebondo, JK Casiño, and finals MVP Orlan Wamar while also tapping Jeepy Faundo, Paul Desiderio, and Macaraya's star at San Sebastian Mike Calisaan.

On the other hand, newly-installed Racal coach Jerry Codiñera and AMA mentor Mark Herrera set modest goals for their teams.

"We will try to improve from last year's record," Codinera said.

"I hope this time, we'll make it to the semis or hopefully in the championship," Herrera said on the other hand.

The Titans are the team to watch out this season with the acquisition of Jeron Teng, the number one pick of the draft. Their full lineup will be revealed in a press conference on Wednesday at the Bagoong Club in Quezon City.

Meanwhile, Eric Gonzales' new coaching gig is a far cry from the Phoenix Accelerators domination last season that he spearheaded.

Still, he is looking at the positives of gaffing a Batangas lineup featuring unsung heroes.

"What we're building here is the character and development of the Batangueños. I hope we can be decent and help these players to be at their best," he said.

Dan Sara and CJ Isit are the big names in the Batangas roster.

JRU, which will bring in its entire lineup from the last NCAA season including PBA draftee Paolo Pontejos, Victoria-MLQU, Cignal-San Beda, comebacking Wangs, and Blu-Malaysia are the other teams competing in the Aspirants' Cup.

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