Defending Aspirants Cup champions Cignal-San Beda Hawkeyes will return to make it three championships in a row in the PBA D-League, the league announced on Thursday evening.
Cignal, winners of both the Aspirants’ and Foundation Cup, will once again be backstopped by reigning NCAA champions San Beda College Red Lions.
Last year, the Hawkeyes were able to outlast the Racal Tile Masters in the Finals, pushing coach Boyet Fernandez’s D-League championships to eight.
Also returning for the first conference of the 2018 season are the Tanduay Rhum Masters, AMA Online Education Titans, Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, Wang’s Basketball Couriers, and Gamboa Coffee Lovers.
2017 Aspirants’ Cup runner-up Racal have yet to tell the league of their intention of joining. The deadline is on Tuesday, November 28.
Mila’s Lechon, on the other hand, is set to debut its first-ever club team.
Completing the record-tying 13 teams are six other schools-based squads out to give Cignal-San Beda a run for its money.
Foundation Cup runners-up Centro Escolar University Scorpions will have another go in the semi-pro league.
Seeing the run CEU had, the rest of the field will be filled with school-based teams.
The Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers will return after a successful 2017 campaign. Fellow NCAA schools Batangas-Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas, Powerball-College of Saint Benilde Blazers, and the Zark’s Burger-backed Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates. Lyceum will be led by reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez, who is making his semi-pro debut.
The league will begin on Tuesday, December 12, with the D-League Draft at the PBA Cafe in Pasig City. The target date for opening day will be on January 18, 2017.