Favorites to be tested in opening

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    FANCIED Marinerong Pilipino and reigning NCAA champion Letran, carrying the colors of Wangs-Letran, launch their bid against separate rebuilding teams when the PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup gets going this Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

    The Skippers, who appeared to hit the jackpot when they selected Fil-Am forward Jamie Malonzo as the No. 2 pick overall in the draft last Jan. 20, tangle with Karate Kid-Centro Escolar University, with new coach Jeff Napa getting his baptism of fire at 2 p.m. after the opening ceremonies at 1 o’clock.

    The 6-foot-6 Malonzo, a former La Salle standout, is coming off a stint with Mighty Sports, which ruled the 31st Dubai International Basketball Championship recently.

    The Knights clash with EcoOil-La Salle, now under veteran tactician Derrick Pumaren, at 4 p.m.

    The Skippers will also have former Green Archers Joshua Torralba, Jollo Go, and James Laput, and former Centro Escolar University gunner Judel Fuentes to backstop mainstays Eliud Poligrates, Mark Yee, Rev Diputado, and JBoy Solis.

    The Scorpions are expected to lean on former University of the Philippines wingman and Gilas Pilipinas pool member Jaydee Tungcab, former University of the East slotman John Apacible, J-Boy Gob, Fighting Maroon David Murrell, and former Adamson University playmaker Jerie Pingoy.

    They will combine with Franz Diaz and Dave Bernabe.

    Now without the trio of Jerrick Balanza, Bonbon Batiller, and Christian Balagasay, who have already graduated and moved up to the pro league, Letran will count on last year’s NCAA finals MVP Fran Yu, Larry Muyang, Renato Ular, and Jeo Ambohot.

    The Green Archers will rely on Aljun Melecio and Justine Baltazar.

    Also headlining the 12-team field are UAAP runners-up Builders Warehouse-University of Santo Tomas-and AMA Online Senior High.

    Completing the cast are Apex Fuel Mindanao-San Sebastian College, SEAOIL-Far Eastern University, Diliman College, Technological Institute of the Philippines, Family Mart-Enderun Colleges, and Mapua University. – Michael Jugado