• Aspirants’ Cup begins Thursday

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    The 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup opens on Thursday, at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, with the game between AMA and Batangas opening the tournament at 3 p.m.

    Cafe France wants to be just that, as it seeks to redeem itself from last season’s Finals loss.

    Fielding in a younger squad, coach Egay Macaraya promises that the Bakers will still be one of the top contenders this conference.

    “We have a very young team, but rest assured that what we have will be a very competitive team this conference,” he said, as he welcomes Paul Desiderio, Michael Calisaan, and Jeepy Faundo to his squad to join forces with Congolese big man Rod Ebondo.

    Tanduay is also out for a rebound following its Foundation Cup heartbreak.

    Coach Lawrence Chongson took the same approach and retooled with younger players for this conference, inserting Mark Cruz, Jom Sollano, Louie Vigil, and Raphy Reyes to his Rhum Masters core.

    “There’s a lot of new teams, and I think we have a slight edge from the field with the team we have,” he said.

    Racal also eyes to crack the championship picture this time out under coach Jerry Codiñera.

    The new mentor’s entry also brings in a lot of optimism, with Kent Salado and Lervin Flores joining Ceramica holdovers Rey Nambatac and Jackson Corpuz.

    “We will try to improve from last year’s record,” Codiñera said.

    Six-time PBA D-League champion coach Boyet Fernandez is gunning to replicate his past success as he returns this conference 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, as the Hawkeyes depend on the leadership of Davon Potts, Javee Mocon, and Monbert Arong.

    AMA Online Education is also coming to this conference with its confidence at an all-time high.

    Coach Mark Herrera has every reason to feel so, with top pick Jeron Teng leading the Titans, together with Jay-R Taganas, Diego Dario, and Ryan Arambulo.

    “Every conference, we always make it to quarterfinals. I hope this time, we’ll make it to the semis or hopefully in the championship,” Herrera said.

    Coach Vergel Meneses will also be bringing his tough Jose Rizal University crew, with shooters Tey Teodoro and Paolo Pontejos leading the Heavy Bombers.

    Though admittedly an underdog, two-time PBA D-League champion coach Eric Gonzales is also hoping that his Batangas team wouldn’t be pushovers as he hopes to develop his young players with Dan Sara and CJ Isit captaining the battle.

    “What we’re building here is the character and development of the Batangueños. I hope we can be decent and help these players to be at their best,” he said.

    Victoria Sports-MLQU, meanwhile, thinks that it can make a decent splash in its first foray as coach Jino Manansala eyes the quarterfinals.

    “I can see that there’s a lot of strong teams this conference, but I promise that we’ll make them work,” he said, as he counts on Ryusei Koga, Zach Nicholls, and Fil-Am forward Robbie Herndon this conference.

    Comebacking Wangs Basketball shares the same mindset, with coach Pablo Lucas hoping that his side’s early preparations will be enough to make some noise.

    “We started early and we believe that we can compete with the others this year,” he said, as he banks on Allen Enriquez, Rey Publico and Mark Juruena to anchor the Couriers.

    Guest team Blustar Detergent makes a comeback this conference, but will be parading national team player Kwaan Yoong Jing and a younger Malaysian core under coach Lee Kheng Tian and deputy Britt Reroma.

    Tristan Perez will also backstop the crew this conference.

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