Zark’s, Marinero emerge as favorites in wide-open D-League Aspirants’ Cup


Photo by Tristan Tamayo/

Coming off a breakout showing this past collegiate season, Zark’s Burger-Lyceum is expected to be one of the teams-to-beat this upcoming 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.

With NCAA Season 93 MVP CJ Perez leading the way, the Jawbreakers are hoping to turn things around for the franchise after a lowly showing in their maiden conference.

And this time, Zark’s brought in the big guns as coach Topex Robinson will parade his full Lyceum core which also has Rookie of the Year winners Jaycee Marcelino and Cameroonian big man Mike Nzeusseu.

But with the race to the crown as open as ever, it won’t be an easy task for the Jawbreakers as they will only be one of the 13 teams, 11 of which are school-based squads, which are aching to take home the throne this eighth season of the developmental league.

One of the potential contenders this year will be the retooled Marinerong Pilipino crew as coach Koy Banal reinforced his roster with some of the finest collegiate standouts available.

UE super scorer Alvin Pasaol is a guaranteed boost to the Skippers crew as he will be joined by La Salle big man Abu Tratter, Ateneo bruiser Vince Tolentino, and veteran forward Gab Banal.

Curiously, the two will open festivities once the new season starts on Thursday.

Also set to chase for the crown is Akari-Adamson, with coach Franz Pumaren seeking to sharpen the talons of his group.

Jerrick Ahanmisi, Sean Manganti, and Cameroonian center Papi Sarr are expected to do much of the heavy lifting for the Falcons.

Centro Escolar University remains as a formidable candidate to make it to the playoffs with coach Yong Garcia once again banking on Congolese big man Rod Ebondo, speedy Orlan Wamar, and sniper Joseph Manlangit.

The same could be said for Che’Lu Bar and Grill-San Sebastian as the Stags will lean on Michael Calisaan and RK Ilagan, as well as reinforcements Samboy de Leon, Rob Ricafort, and Jeepy Faundo.

Wangs Basketball-Letran is also set to trot out the future of the Knights led by Bong Quinto, Jeo Ambohot, and JP Calvo.

Go for Gold didn’t shy away from collecting assets as the Scratchers are putting much of the load on the shoulders of their backcourt duo of J-Jay Alejandro and Kent Salado, as well as ex-pro Jerwin Gaco.

Jose Rizal University, meanwhile, doubled down on familiarity with former Heavy Bombers Ervin Grospe and Paolo Pontejos aiding new top gun Jed Mendoza and rookie coach Gio Lasquety.

Andre Paras returns to the fold for AMA Online Education as he will backstop coach Mark Herrera and his crew, bannered by Mario Bonleon and newcomers JK Casiño, Philip Manalang, and Michael Cañete.

Batangas-EAC formed an intriguing union as the Generals will rely on the leadership of Cedric de Joya and Jerome Garcia.

Nigerian slotman Prince Eze, and holdovers AJ Coronel and Keith Pido will be counted on for Perpetual, which enters a new era under the guidance of consultant Frankie Lim and coach Nosa Omorogbe.

Gamboa Coffee-St. Clare is also seeking to pull off a few surprises with Aris Dionisio and Chris Bito-on leading the fight.

Debuting Mila’s Lechon also has the same idea in mind as the Mighty Roasters will parade a squad led by Ken Acibar, Axel Inigo, and Mark Sarangay.

Every game counts this first conference as only six teams will advance in the playoffs after the single-round eliminations.

The top two teams advance outright in the semifinals, while teams ranked third and fourth will own a twice-to-beat advantage against the fifth- and sixth-seeds in the quarterfinals. Winners will proceed in the Final Four.

Both the semifinals and the Finals will be disputed in a best-of-three series.