MANILA, Philippines - Cebuana Lhuillier hopes to buck the loss of key players with a pack of new recruits as it opens its campaign in the second PBA D-League which fires off Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
MVP Allein Maliksi, Ariel Mepana, James Sena and Chris Canta are now in the pro league, leaving Marvin Hayes, Benedict Fernandez, Pari Llagas and Alwyn Elinon as the only holdovers of the team which lost the inaugural crown to NLEX.
But Cebuana coach Luigi Trillo remains hopeful of the team’s chances even as he pins his hopes on Vic Manuel, ex-pro Jai Reyes, Terence Romero, Ping Excimiano, Yousef Taje, James Mangahas, Paul Sanga, Raymund Almazan, Andrian Celeda and Mark Jeffries.
"Our modest goal is to try and be as competitive as we can be," said Trillo, noting that he went after players who are acquainted with each other for cohesion.
Trillo also expressed satisfaction on the exodus of his former players, saying he considers the break of their careers as testament to the organization's sound player development.
"Our effort to develop players for the PBA is working," said Trillo.
In all, the Gems lost 12 players, including their Fil-Ams, who have signed up with other teams.
Kevin Alas has also remained with the Gems but he is currently on a study grant and won't return until December.
Cebuana Lhuillier will open its campaign in the Aspirant’s Cup against Cobra Energy Drink – a team built around the core of the UE Warriors – on Oct. 27.
Meanwhile, the Road Warriors have also lost top players of their champion team, including Eric Salamat, John Raymundo and Ogie Menor – to the pros. But they signed up last year's UAAP most valuable player RR Garcia, Ateneo’s Emman Monfort, San Beda’s Garvo Lanete and Dave Marcelo ensuring coach Boyet Fernandez with a formidable squad.
PC Gilmore, RnW Pacific Pipes, Big Chill and Blackwater also netted collegiate standouts and Fil-foreign players making them also strong contenders according to Trillo.