JUST as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women’s volleyball duel reaches its spellbinding climax, the preseason basketball tournament gets under way on Saturday with Ateneo and De La Salle making their Filoil Flying V Premier Cup debut against separate foes.
The Green Archers, still smarting from missing the UAAP Final Four last season, unveil a young lineup abetted by veterans Jeron Teng and Thomas Torres with talented Cameroonian Ben Mbala patrolling the lane.
Under new Head Coach Aldin Ayo and with some exciting new talent, De La Salle has what it takes to compete for the UAAP men’s basketball title. However, for now, the challenge is for DLSU to learn the pressure defense their coach perfected in Letran, where he led the Knights to the National Collegiate Athletic Association crown last year.
Standing in their way in their Filoil debut are the Franz Pumaren-coached Adamson University Falcons that are loaded with exciting Filipino-Americans, including Jerrick Ahanmisi, younger brother of pro Maverick, who is with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Adamson University and De La Salle tangle at 10 a.m., while Ateneo, back after a two-year absence from the tournament, takes on another team with some roots from their archrivals from Taft. The Blue Eagles battle the Derrick Pumaren-coached Red Warriors, one of the league’s exciting squads from last season, at 2 p.m.
Like the Green Archers, the Blue Eagles, under coaching consultant and national team Head Coach Tab Baldwin, will parade a young lineup bereft of many of last years stars.
Ateneo’s Premier Cup roster only has John Apacible, Aaron Black, Chibueze Ikeh, Matt Nieto and Vince Tolentino as holdovers.
“Right now, we’ve split our players into as many leagues, as we can play,” Assistant Coach Sandy Arespacochaga said. “We want to give as much exposure to everyone on our roster, including Team B.”
The Blue Eaglets take on reigning NCAA juniors champions San Beda Red Cubs at noon. The Blue Eaglets will have 6-foot-9 center Kai Sotto, son of pro player Ervin, in the lineup.
Tickets to the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup are available at the gate of the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan or at all Ticketnet branches.