Belo makes PBA debut

MAC BELO, the top pick in the Gilas cadets special draft, debuts for Blackwater against Phoenix, while NLEX begins a new era under a proven coach as it battles Alaska in an interesting double-header in the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Belo, a former Far Eastern University star, is described by Head Coach Leo Isaac as a versatile forward who could provide offense and defense for the franchise, which is looking for its first playoff appearance.

“He can provide so many things to the team and I think he’s ready for the PBA,” said Isaac, who also tabbed Raphael Banal in the regular draft to add depth to their backcourt. Veteran guard Ronjay Buenafe was also added to their roster.

Blackwater faces the Fuel Masters in the opener at 4:15 p.m., while the Road Warriors, now under Yeng Guiao, take on the Aces at 7 p.m.

The Elite were always at the bottom of the standings in their first two seasons in the PBA and the addition of Belo and Banal, who will team up with sophomore forward Art de la Cruz, will give them a young core chich can make them competitive every night.

“New season, new hope for Blackwater,” Isaac added.

Phoenix had a breakthrough Governors’ Cup campaign, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to top seed TNT Katropa in the Last Eight.

Head Coach Ariel Vanguardia also parades a pair of promising rookies in Filipino-Canadian Matthew Wright and Gelo Alolino. The team also made a last-minute deal with GlobalPort and landed forward Doug Kramer.

Guiao, a seven-time PBA champion coach, also debuts for his sixth team in the league with NLEX.

The Road Warriors signed marquee players in Bradwyn Guinto (Mahindra) and Carlo Lastimosa (Blackwater) and added youth to their aging frontline by tabbing former Ateneo forward Alfonso Gotladera in the Gilas draft.

But their biggest acquisition during the off season was Guiao, a two-time Coach of the Year who will try to weave his magic at NLEX.

They will be facing an intact Alaska squad, runner-up in last season’s Philippine Cup. The Aces of Head Coach Alex Compton have one rookie, Carl Bryan Cruz, but he is in the injured list.




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