|Representatives from the participating teams and officials of the M-League pose for a picture after a team meeting.|
By Dugout Philippines
MANILA--Manila, Solid San Juan and new team Bacoor look like the prohibitive favorites as many former pro-league cagers see action Sunday together with a number of imports when six teams plunge to action first in the Metro League Reinforced (2nd) Conference opener at the San Juan Gym.
Home team Solid San Juan takes centerstage in the main game at 4 p.m when it hosts the visiting Pateros-Metro Asia in the much-awaited opening day of the tournament that is backed by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and which has Barangay 143 as league presentor.
Before that, debuting Bacoor will be tested against Pasigueño in the 1 p.m. appetizer followed by a collision between Manila Stars and Caloocan Supremos at 2:30 p.m.
Synergy 88, World Balance, Excellent noodles and San Miguel Corporation as major sponsors, the M-League allows each team an option to parade an import this conference to add spice and excitement to the 10-team competition that seeks to discover more grassroots basketball talents and to promote sports among National Capital Region and Mega Manila cities.
Spearheading the set of reinforcements are San Juan’s Raymond Miller Jr. who played for California State Fullerton in US NCAA. He went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft but has been making noise in international leagues with the Indonesian Basketball League being his latest stint.
Former Arellano U Standout Michael Canete and returning NCAA juniors all-time single-game scoring record holder Joshua Saret are also all in for San Juan which looms as a heavy favorite against the import-less Pateros.
Trooping into the battle without a reinforcement, Pateros-Metro Asia will solely lean on former CSB Blazer Jeffrey Ryan Ongteco and new head coach Ariel Capus.
Meanwhile, not to be outshine are the duel of star-studded Manila Stars and Caloocan Supremos.
Former PBA players Joseph Yeo, Ronnie Matias and Carlo Lastimosa lead the Stars together with Lyceum standout Ian Alban with Moustaph Arafat serving as reinforcement.
They will be up against D-League stalwards Johnnel Rey Bauzon, Joseph Brutas and import Abdoulaye Niang of the Supremos.
Though a newbie in the league, Bacoor is leaving no stone unturned with a formidable line up led by former San Miguel Beerman Michael Mabulac, former UAAP cagers Dawn Ochea (Adamson) and RJ Ramirez (FEU) with former Tamaraws slot man Prince Orizu serving as reinforcement.
Standing in their way are former San Mig Coffee center and grand slam PBA champion Jerwin Gaco of Pasig which will also get a boost from former San Beda Red Lions Ryusei Koga and Eugene Toba Okwuchukwu as import of the comebacking Pasigueños.
Other teams in the tournament which has SMS Global Technologies, Inc. as official livestream & technology partner, Spalding as official ball, Team Rebel Sports as official outfitter, PLDT as official internet provider & Manila Bulletin as media partner, also boast an equally strong squads bannered by reigning All Filipino (1st) conference champion Valenzuela Workhorse which will parade former NCAA import from Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) Hamadou Laminou and returns local guard John Tayongtong and last conference’s leading scorer Erwin Sta. Maria.
Taguig City, meanwhile, will have former Rain or Shine player Jonathan Uyloan together with import Emmanual Ojuola.
Like Pateros, teams which also will be playing without any reinforcement are the Quezon City Junior Capitals and Marikina which will fortunately have celebrity-athlete Gerald Anderson as well as amateur league standouts RJ Deles and Marlon Basco.
Also supported by Gerry’s Grill, Summit Water, Alcoplus and Nature’s Spring helping out, the M-League is a tournament that has already discovered and produced top talents who made it all the way to the PBA -- the oldest professional league in Asia.
A former Mandaluyong City stalwart in the 24-&-under tournament, Joseph Gabayni was selected as the 14th overall pick of Globalport (now Northport) in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft while former 16-&-under MVP from Quezon City Cyrus Tabi was tabbed as the 18th overall pick of Columbian in the recent 2018 Draft.
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