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Red Lions join Dubai International cagefest



Despite not being able to defend their PBA D-League championship, the San Beda College Red Lions will still get a chance to prepare early for their NCAA title defense.

While the majority of the NCAA teams duke it out in the PBA D-League, the defending, back-to-back champions are set to be the Philippine representatives for the 2018 Dubai International Basketball Tournament. The tournament takes place at the Al Ahli Sporting Club in the UAE from January 19-26.

“We got this rare invitation to join this prestigious tournament, and represent the country against the top teams in West Asia,” said Red Lions team manager Jude Roque. “It’s a great opportunity to learn from the tough competition. At the same time, it’s an honor to play in front of our fellow Filipinos in Dubai.”

The tournament won’t be a breeze for the Red Lions as the elite club teams from West Asia converge in the 29th edition of the tournament.

Joining San Beda are the UAE’s National Team; Egyptian clubs Al Ahly and Zamalek; Lebanese clubs Al-Riyadi, Homentmen, and Al-Hikma; AS Sale from Morocco; ES Radès from Tunisia; and Al-Nasr from Libya.

San Beda’s lineup will be headlined by 23 for 2023 Gilas cadets Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon, and Kemark Carino. Joining them are Donald Tankoua, Arnaud Noah, AC Soberano, Clint Doliguez, Joe Presbitero, Franz Abuda, Calvin Oftana, Jeramer Cabanag, JB Bahio, Benedict Adamos, and Radge Tongco. Six-foot-nine Nigerian student-athlete Eugene Toba will be part of San Beda’s A-Team as well as Davon Potts has moved on to the pro ranks.

Boyet Fernandez will call the shots from the sidelines, together with Gino Manuel. The team’s staff includes liaison officer Joey de Jesus, stats man Benjie Berro, and and physical therapist Mike Sunga.

“Our young players will surely gain from this experience. We expect to come back home as a better team,” added Roque.

This would not have been possible without the help of UAE-based water producing company Masafi.

Last year, Mighty Sports-Philippines represented the country in the annual tourney. The club team went 1-5 in the tournament.



Willie Marcial hints at possibility of PBA lending unlimited players to Gilas



Current PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial was a surprise spectator Monday night at the Meralco Gym, as Gilas Pilipinas resumed its’ preparations for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, hindi ako bisita.

“Magkakasama tayo nung araw pa,” quipped the amiable official.

Marcial’s visit speaks volumes of the PBA’s commitment to the Gilas program even if the pro league is in the midst of recovering from a lengthy impasse late in 2017, where a power struggle in the PBA’s board room took place.

“Ang PBA 100 percent susuportahan yung Gilas. Maniwala kayo. Talagang all out ang PBA diyan,” said the league’s former media bureau chief.

And coming along with that all-out support he had affirmed is the possibility of abolishing the one-player-per-team rule in loaning players to the National Team. That ruling has seemingly limited Gilas in building the best team possible.

“Baka magulat kayo biglang mag-propose sila wala nang limit ang players ‘pag kumuha. Puwedeng mangyari yun.”

When asked if he will be a regular fixture in Gilas practices in the coming weeks, Marcial said that it would be strongly possible, barring any meetings in the league’s office that require his full attention.

“Nako, sinabi ko sa kanila pipilitin ko every Monday nandito ako,” said Marcial, a favorite to become the next PBA commissioner. “Pupunta ako rito every Monday, basta wala lang mga meeting talagang pupuntahan ko sila.

“Tingnan niyo, masaya kami, parang magkakabarkada diba? Sabi ko sa kanila walang problema.”

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June Mar Fajardo returns to Gilas practice



With just 37 days left before the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, four-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo suited up during the second session of SMART Gilas Pilipinas.

Fajardo was absent during the team’s first practice as he battled the classic case of a flu.

Joining Fajardo were Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Troy Rosario, Jiovani Jalalon, Carl Cruz, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, and Japeth Aguilar. Roger Pogoy was also in attendance, but was in street clothes.

Not present were Mac Belo and Jayson Castro. Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan were also absent for the second straight week.

For the 23 for 2023 cadets, only two were invited for the night’s session.

Reigning NCAA Seniors Basketball MVP CJ Perez was present together with Marinerong Pilipino big man Abu Tratter.

The practice was supervised by assistant coaches Jong Uichico and Josh Reyes. Coach Chot Reyes is currently in Japan.

The PBA’s officer-in-charge Willie Marcial watched on the sidelines.

The Philippines will face Australia at the Margaret Court Arena on February 22. Three days later, the country will host Japan at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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Kai Sotto, Joel Cagulangan top Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 Week 1 rankings



The Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Centre 24 is the first-ever attempt to rank the top High School prospects in the country today.

The weekly ranking used the following criteria: league stats, impact in team, team record, leadership, defense, offense, and level of competition.

These rankings will be used to determine the 24 players who will take part in the annual SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game on March at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

For the first week of the Chooks-to-Go/NBTC power rankings, sophomore big man Kai Sotto towered above the rest, as he was named as the top high school player this week.

Sotto, a 7-foot-1 center for the Ateneo High School, had 11 points, 12 rebounds, and five swats during the Blue Eaglets’ win over the UST Tiger Cubs last Saturday.

The 23 for 2023 cadet was not the consensus top prospect, however, as he had equal votes with La Salle Green Hills guard Joel Cagulangan.

With Cagulangan steering the wheel, the Junior Blazers were able to win their first-ever NCAA crown late last year.

Reigning NCAA Juniors Basketball Most Valuable Player and 23 for 2023 cadet Will Gozum was third for the week followed by UST revelation CJ Cansino and AHS floor general SJ Belangel.

Completing the Top 24 are:

6. L-Jay Gonzales, FEU
7. Rhayyan Amsali, NU
8. Dave Ildefonso, AdMU
9. Aaron Fermin, AU
10. Clint Escamis, MU
11. Inand Fornilos, LSGH
12. Evan Nelle, SBC
13. Warren Bonifacio, MU
14. John Galinato, CKSC
15. RJ Abarrientos, FEU
16. Terrence Fortea, NU
17. Jancork Cabahug, UV
18. Mac Guadana, LPU
19. Raven Cortez, DLSZ
20. Harvey Pagsanjan, HCHS
21. Jielo Razon, UPHSD
22. Joem Sabandal, AdU
23. Maui Cruz, EAC
24. Niel Tolentino, CSJL

Student-athletes taking part in the UAAP, CESAFI-NBTC, MMBL, and FCAAF tournaments as well as the recently concluded NCAA competition were the only players considered for this ranking.

The Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 Facebook live show will take place on Wednesday, January 17, at 7:00pm. Make sure to like the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas and SM NBTC Facebook pages for more information.

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Carl Cruz breaks out after months of limited time with Alaska



Photo by PBA Images

March 22, 2017

That was the last time Carl Cruz scored in double figures for the Alaska Aces. Still a rookie back then, the six-foot-four forward had 15 points on 60 percent shooting to help his team to a 109-95 victory over the Blackwater Elite.

After that, Cruz seemingly lost his place in coach Alex Compton’s rotation.

The 26-year-old, who rode the bench most of the time last season, became a riddle to many, considering that he has made a solid mark with Gilas Pilipinas teams that have competed abroad, highlighted by a gold medal run in the 2017 SEA Games.

But thankfully for the Far Eastern University product, in the early goings of his sophomore season, he has been gracing the court for periods of time. And on Sunday night, Cruz finally had his best game after a long while.

In Alaska’s 102-65 destruction of the struggling Kia Picanto, Cruz made his presence felt with 16 points on 60 percent shooting — highlighted by a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc — and nine rebounds in nearly 18 minutes.

“Namimiss ko yung ganitong situation,” said Cruz, who was averaging just 2.67 points prior to Sunday evening. “Maraming struggles na ‘kong napagdaanan, and nagpapasalamat lang ako kasi yung pasensya na binigay sakin ng coaching staff, super haba. Finally nagkaroon ako ng breakout game.

“Nagpapasalamat lang ako kay Lord.”

But more than his own outing, the Novaliches-born cager was even more satisfied with what the Aces have been doing as a whole. After opening the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight losses, they have now won two straight.

“Nag-step up na lahat,” he expressed. “Kasi yung una naming mga laban, solid yun eh. Kumbaga nabigla kami. Pero ngayon nakapag-adjust na kami, naibalik na namin yung sistema na gusto namin ilaro, especially sa depensa namin.

“So yun, fruit of our hard work lang.”

But the Aces will be put to the test this Sunday, as they will face the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, who are looking to vent ire on them after having lost to the Blackwater Elite. Cruz, however, feels that he and Alaska are prepared for that rivalry bout.

“Yung Ginebra tinambakan ng Blackwater, so malamang gigil yan bumawi. Magandang preparation ‘to para sa’min (last two games) na walang magrerelax going towards our game against Ginebra,” stressed the Gilas cadet.

“Bigay lang namin best namin.”

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