MANILA, Philippines – After a historic season ended in heartbreak for Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), the Pirates are now taking their talents to the PBA D-League where they have linked up with Zark's Burger for the upcoming Aspirants Cup.
Lyceum memorably swept the elimination round of the NCAA Season 93 tournament, only to be beaten by defending champion San Beda College in two games in the finals. Thus, they are looking forward to a fresh start in the D-League.
"It's a new journey for us," said Lyceum coach Topex Robinson in a press conference on Thursday. "We're excited for the new partnership."
"'Yung hindi namin na-complete noong Season 93, hopefully, ito 'yung continuation," he added. "Thank you, Zark's, for giving us the opportunity."
This will be Zark's second conference in the D-League. They made their debut in last season's Foundation Cup, but struggled to make an impact. The Jawbreakers won only one of their 10 games to finish at the bottom of the standings.
Team owner Rolandrei "Commie" Varona is hopeful that with the talented Pirates in his team, they can make a bigger splash in the upcoming conference.
"Pareho kami ng vision ng LPU," Varona stressed. "Kung paano sila nagsimula, ganoon din 'yung vision ko. They started the NCAA na nasa ilalim din sila, then umangat. Tapos, gusto rin nila makabawi."
"I believe na parehas kami ng goal, na it's time to win," he added. "Ayaw na namin na hanggang dito lang."
The core of the Lyceum team that made it to the NCAA finals this year will also play for Zark's, with MVP CJ Perez, twins Jaycee and Jayvee Marcelino, Mike Nzeusseu, and team captain MJ Ayaay leading the way for them in the D-League.
Thus, Robinson is relying on their chemistry with each other to fuel their campaign.
"'Yung familiarity with each other, knowing kung ano 'yung pinanggagalingan namin really helps us," he noted.
The coach is also confident that playing in the D-League should only help his players improve, and put the spotlight on Lyceum's basketball program at the same time.
"It's a good opportunity for us as a team, as a school, and for Zark's Burgers," he said. "The more opportunity for us to hone our skills, the better for everybody."
"Like what I always share with you guys, our players were not really coming out of high school as top recruits. We are not really on top of the list of the players. So this is an opportunity to be known – the same vision with Zark's," he added.
Aside from Lyceum, five other NCAA squads are set to compete in the Aspirants Cup, with University of Perpetual Help, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, Jose Rizal University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, and San Sebastian College.
Defending champion Cignal, which is anchored by the core of San Beda, may also participate as well.
The Aspirants Cup opens on January 18.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.