Without any clear cut favorite to win the plum, the race to the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup is expected to be as open as ever.
But with only six teams advancing to the quarterfinals after the eliminations, there are early contenders expected to stand out among the field.
Aspirants’ Cup bridesmaid Cafe France tops that lis with coach Egay Macaraya and crew eyeing to bounce back from last season’s heartbreaking loss.
The Bakers squad will be fielding a new look crew with Paul Desiderio, Michael Calisaan, and Jeepy Faundo joining forces with Congolese tower Rod Ebondo.
“We have a very young team, but rest assured that what we have will be a very competitive team this conference,” said Macaraya.
Also out for redemption is Tanduay after its runner-up finish in the Foundation Cup.
Coach Lawrence Chongson is exuding in confidence with the Rhum Masters’ chances this time out, saying, “There are a lot of new teams, and I think we have a slight edge from the field with the team we have.”
Tanduay made slight tweaks and will rely on Mark Cruz, Jom Sollano, Louie Vigil, and Raphy Reyes for this conference.
Perennial semifinalist Racal also enters a new era, as it eyes to finally get over the hump under coach Jerry Codinera.
Bringing in his Arellano trio of Kent Salado, Lervin Flores, and Donald Gumaru, the mentor is looking to finally crack the Finals in his first conference with the Ceramica.
“We will try to improve from last year’s record,” said Codinera, who will still have Rey Nambatac and Jackson Corpuz on his team.
Six-time PBA D-League champion coach Boyet Fernandez also returns this season and is hoping to replicate his past triumphs with Cignal-San Beda.
“It will be a different team, but we’ll try our best to make Cignal as competitive as possible,” he said.
Davon Potts, Javee Mocon, and Monbert Arong are expected to lead the fight for the Hawkeyes.
AMA Online Education is also looking forward to a promising campaign with top pick Jeron Teng anchoring the squad.
Jay-R Taganas, Diego Dario, and Juami Tiongson are also in the fray for the Titans, enough to give coach Mark Herrera the confidence for this coming conference.
“Every conference, we always make it to quarterfinals. I hope this time, we’ll make it to the semis or hopefully in the championship,” he said.
Jose Rizal University remains a deadly team, with coach Vergel Meneses ready to unleash snipers Tey Teodoro and Paolo Pontejos when the opportunity presents itself.
The 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup kicks off on January 19 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, with the tiff between AMA and Batangas kicking off the festivities at 3 p.m.