At the maximum, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL)still has two games left this season depending on the outcome of the ongoing national finals between San Juan and Davao Occidental. The Knights are enjoying a 2-1 advantage and have a chance to wrap things up with a win at home. A Tigers victory would send the series back to Davao to determine the first-ever National Champion of the Datu Cup.
But while the finals are at the forefront of the sports news, team transactions being done by different teams while preparing for next season have been creating a buzz.
Bacoor and Basilan are two of the busiest teams as they have no plans of slowing down even after wrapping their season.
For the Strikers, it’s a good time to fill in the missing pieces and provide the necessary help for Gab Banal, the front-runner in the MVP derby. Immediately after posting a solid season by making it all the way to the southern division semifinal round, Bacoor surrounded its best player with people who could complement his all-around game.
The biggest acquisition is Michael Mabulac, the starting center of the Laguna Heroes in the soon-to-end season. An MBL All-Star, the 6-foot-5 former San Miguel Beer reserve made his presence felt in the Datu Cup where he averaged a double-double of 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
Two more All-Stars were added on their team — spitfire guard Ian Melencio, formerly of Imus and cerebral point guard Paolo Castro, the ex-point guard of the Parañaque Patriots.
Chris Sumalinog will also return to the lineup after his stint with Alab Pilipinas in the ABL while RJ Ramirez, a former guard from Far Eastern University, was also taken in as a homegrown player.
Perhaps, the much-celebrated inclusion is Matthew Aquino, son of former basketball star Marlou Aquino, as their tandem will forge the first-ever father-and-son tandem in Philippine basketball since Robert and Dodot Jaworski.
Like Bacoor, Basilan is making swift moves, tapping the services of former Quezon City Capitals premier point guard Hesed Gabo and ex-pro Tonton Bringas. The team also acquired Bobby Balucanag and Shaq Alanes from Pasay and is awaiting for the release of another marquee player.
Expansion team Albay, the newest to join the fastest-growing regional amateur basketball league, also made its presence felt quickly.
To be coached by Monel Kallos and managed by ex-Emilio Aguinaldo College mentor Nomar Isla, the Volcanoes will be headed by ex-pros Ronjay Buenafe, Alex Nuyles and Jonathan Aldave. There are so many ongoing developments. We saw Big Mac Andaya returning to Valenzuela and Jeff Viernes staying with Batangas despite persistent wooing by other squads.
The Quezon City Capitals are determined to sign up Aaron Black, son of Hall-of-Fame player/coach Norman Black while Bataan, which was reportedly taking a leave of absence, has decided to stay on, but definitely without head coach Jojo Lastimosa.
There’s more to the MPBL and we have yet to see the league wrapping up another successful season under the stewardship of Senator Manny Pacquiao, its founder and chief executive officer, and basketball great Kenneth Duremdes, the league’s commissioner.
Truly, basketball excitement never stops in the MPBL.
Rey Joble is a member of the PBA Press Corps and Philippine Sportswriters Association.