Cafe France, Tanduay, Racal emerge as favorites in new conference

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This early, three teams are emerging as favorites to snare the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup title.

Cafe France, Tanduay, and Racal all pose legitimate threats in the race for the crown after retooling with big names in the offseason.

The Bakers will still enjoy their Centro Escolar U core led by Congolese big man Rod Ebondo, as well as guards Aaron Jeruta and JK Casino.

Coach Egay Macaraya also added UP scorer Paul Desiderio, San Sebastian forward Michael Calisaan, and UST big man Jeepy Faundo to the Cafe France roster in a bid to atone for last year’s bridesmaid finish.

Rhum Masters coach Lawrence Chongson also overhauled his veteran core and placed diminutive guard Mark Cruz as the team’s cornerstone.

Joining him in the roster are former Letran teammates Jom Sollano and Bong Quinto, comebacking Louie Vigil, and UP winger Dave Moralde.

Tanduay is also the lone team this conference which took advantage of the new ruling which allows at least two ex-PBA players over the age of 30 to beef up a squad with the signing of 34-year-old big man Angelus Raymundo.

Racal, meanwhile, will be parading a new core under coach Jerry Codinera as he brings Arellano stalwarts Kent Salado, Lervin Flores, and Donald Gumaru to the squad in hopes of finally making the semifinals.

They will join holdovers Rey Nambatac, Jackson Corpuz, and new recruits Allan Mangahas and Sidney Onwubere in the Ceramica lineup.

But the rest of the teams have also toughened up in the hopes of making a deep run in the new conference.

AMA Online Education will be parading this season’s top pick Jeron Teng and he will be joined by double-double machine Jay-R Taganas, and promising guards Diego Dario, Ryan Arambulo, and Juami Tiongson.

Cignal-San Beda will also try to reclaim its old glory in the PBA D-League with seven-time champion coach Boyet Fernandez back in the fray. Javee Mocon, Davon Potts, and Robert Bolick will lead the squad, which will also parade FEU playmaker Monbert Arong and former Perpetual forward Harold Arboleda.

Jose Rizal University will be banking on its chemistry, with coach Vergel Menses entrusting the leadership role to Tey Teodoro, Paolo Pontejos, and Ervin Grospe.

Coach Eric Gonzales is also eyeing to bring his championship pedigree to Batangas, where he will bank on Dan Sara and CJ Isit to lead the battle.

Victoria Sports-MLQU brings in a sense of intrigue with Ryusei Koga, Zach Nicholls, and Fil-Am Robbie Herndon bannering the crew.

Wangs Basketball remains as an underdog, but will be looking to nab a few stunners behind Allen Enriquez, Rey Publico, and Mark Juruena.

Guest team Blustar Detergent returns this conference with Tristan Perez backing up the all-Malaysian side led by Kwaan Yoong Jing.

The 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup opens on January 19 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.