College teams battle current, former pros in AsiaBasket Las Piñas Championship

By Dugout Philippines

MANILA–Six school-based teams–including a surprise entry–ramp up their preparations for their respective leagues’ upcoming season by clashing with four ballclubs in the 2023 Bola.TV AsiaBasket Las Pinas Championship, which begins Friday at the Villar Coliseum in the said city.

The UAAP is well-represented in the upcoming tournament with two teams confirmed to be joining the fray.

Ateneo continues its buildup for its UAAP title defense by joining AsiaBasket with head coach Tab Baldwin, Gilas Pilipinas player Mason Amos, former Gilas Youth players Geo Chiu, Jordi Gomez De Liano, and Kyle Gamber, and foreign student-athlete Joseph Obasa leading the charge.

Far Eastern University, however, could be a team to watch as they parade seven-foot-two Senegalese center Mouhammed Fatty.

Backstopping the graduating big man are locals L-Jay Gonzales, Royce Alforque, Xyrus Torres, Renzo Competente, Cholo Anonuevo, and rookie Jan Rey Pasaol.

Denok Miranda gets his hands full further for the Tamaraws as head coach with former teammate Mark Isip and fellow FEU and PBA legends Johnny Abarrientos and Vic Pablo highlighting the coaching staff more.

Also joining among the collegiate teams are NCAA strongholds San Beda and College of St. Benilde, which both played in the Sportsclick AsiaBasket International Championship in Kuala Lumpur last summer.

The Red Lions, however, will be fielding in a different lineup this time with brothers RC and Richi Calimag and Bryan Sajonia leading the way.

Coach Andre Santos takes care of San Beda in the meantime as their head coach, Yuri Escueta, is with TNT in the PBA on Tour, where the Red Lions’ key players are honing their skills.

The Charles Tiu-mentored Blazers, on the other hand, are bringing back the core of their previous AsiaBasket roster led by Prince Carlos, Robi Nayve, Migs Oczon, and Miggy Corteza.

Reinforcing CSB, however, is reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player Will Gozum, who is returning to the team after a brief spell with the Quezon Huskers of the MPBL.

Defending NCAA champion Letran is joining the Bola.TV AsiaBasket Las Pinas Championship as well led by head coach Rensy Bajar and key players Kobe Monje, Kyle Tolentino, and Kurt Reyson, who has been stellar in the college preseason and even in the MPBL for the Pampanga Giant Lanterns.

The last team that will complete the AsiaBasket Las Pinas Championship cast will be announced very soon.

Clashing against the collegiate teams are four teams made up of veterans, one of them led once more by actor Gerald Anderson.

Anderson this time spearheads Corsa Tires, bringing along six-foot-nine center Ladis Lepalam with him again.

Justine Sanchez and Tony Ynot join Corsa too while they are currently redshirting following their transfer to CSB even as Babacar Ndong backstop the Monch Gavieres-coached squad as its world import.

Sanzar Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, makes an AsiaBasket return, but this time, they will be coached by former PBA star point guard Egay Billones with former number-one pick Yancy De Ocampo as part of his coaching staff.

Joel Jolangcob and Mark Bitoy, whose alma mater Perpetual Help is just near the Villar Coliseum, lead Sanzar, to be known as the Fire Tigers, for the Las Pinas Championship.

Sanzar showed its preparedness for the AsiaBasket event by beating a UAAP team in a tune-up game recently.

The Pilipinas Aguilas have also expressed their participation in the Bola.TV AsiaBasket Las Pinas Championship.

Former collegiate basketball stars Chibueze Ikeh and Eugene Toba lead the Aguilas as their world imports, while Biboy Enguio, Garren Elorde, and Darwish Bederi headline their locals.

Uratex, meanwhile, boasts a stacked roster consisting of former collegiate standouts, namely Eric Salamat, Vic Epres, Bacon Austria, Bam-Bam Gamalinda, Ira Buyco, Genmar Bragais, Ola Adeogun, Mike Harry Nzeusseu, and Fonzo Gotladera.

The surprise team will be placed in Group A with CSB, Corsa, Ateneo, and Uratex. Group B, on the other hand, consists of the Knights, Tamaraws, Red Lions, Fire Tigers, and Aguilas.

The teams have the option to field in both their world imports at any given point of the game.

The Bola.TV AsiaBasket Las Pinas Championship opens with a quadruple-header, beginning with CSB battling their new recruits Sanchez and Ynot and the rest of Corsa at 1 p.m.

Sanzar then tests the mettle of FEU at 3 p.m. before Ateneo battles Uratex at 5 p.m. and San Beda and Letran rekindle their rivalry in the main game at 7 p.m.

The other two teams, the Aguilas and the surprise team, debut on Saturday in another quadruple header.

The Aguilas open the festivities at 1 p.m. against the Tamaraws, while the 10th team battles Corsa in the next game at 3 p.m.

The night games feature San Beda and Sanzar at 5 p.m. and Ateneo and CSB at 7 p.m.

The group phase games resume on Sunday and Monday before taking Tuesday off with the last four games happening on Wednesday.

The top four teams per group after the round-robin phase will clash in the crossover quarterfinals on July 27 with the winners going to the July 28 semifinals.

The final takes place on July 30 with a consolation game for third place to be played before that.

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