REIGNING UAAP men’s champion Ateneo tests the mettle of Gilas Pilipinas cadets in the opener of the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup this Saturday.
The tussle between the nationals and the Blue Eagles is set at 6:30 p.m. at the Filoil Flying V Centre and serves as the main game of a busy triple header ushering the 12th season of the annual preseason tournament.
The opening ceremony begins at 12 noon and will be shown live on ESPN 5.
This will be the first tournament where the cadets are seeing action since a training pool was formed early this year from where the nucleus of the national team to the 2023 FIBA World Cup here will be culled.
Tournament director Bennett Palad said the stint will definitely help the squad become one cohesive unit.
“Malaking tulong because they’re competing with the best players and best schools natin. Kung national team player ako mahahasa ng husto yung skills ko,” said Palad, who was with long-time Filoil Preseason Premier Cup official Joey Guillermo during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Tapa King Restaurant at Farmers Plaza in Cubao.
“At ‘yung bonding nila importante ‘yun,” added Palad, a former PBA player and national team member himself. “Through the years, kailangan i-polish ‘yan. Hindi naman overnight ‘yan nagagawa. Malaking factor ‘yan especially when we compete with other teams abroad.”
Guillermo said the country’s premier preseason tournament has always been committed to extending a helping hand for national cause.
“I think this will be the fourth time where a national team will be playing in the preseason,” he said in the regular public sports program presented by San Miguel Corp., Tapa King, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
He said the last time the a Philippine squad saw action in the meet was during the time of Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng, both of whom are now rookies in the PBA.
“Before kasi ‘yung mga U18 or U16 pag nagre-request sila (to join) while preparing for an international meet,” Guillermo said. “Nilalagay sila sa men’s division para mabatak sila. Pero ngayon U23, I think they can match up na sa mga college teams natin.”
Including Gilas, a total of 19 teams divided into two groups will be competing in the men’s side, while there will be eight entries in the juniors division.
The cadets are bracketed in Group A with Ateneo, La Salle, Mapua, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Perpetual Help, National University, University of the East, University of the Philippines, and defending champion San Beda.
Group B meanwhile, will have Adamson, Arellano, College of St. Benilde, Letran, Far Eastern University, Lyceum, San Sebastian, Jose Rizal University, and University of Santo Tomas.
The Red Lions, who defeated La Salle Green Archers for the championship last season, will start their title defense against the NU Bulldogs on Sunday.