D-League Watch: Black Water Elite

Faye Valencia

By Sid Ventura
For Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Head coach: Leo Isaac
Assistant coaches: Patrick Aquino, Junjie Ablan, Tylon Darjuan, and Andy Mejos

Vergel Angelo Zulueta
Joshua Saret
Rocky Acidre
Ian Chris Mazo
Norman Paul Ihalas
Giorgio Ciriacruz
Jerby Del Rosario
Prince Renmer Caperal
Mark Anthony Limpat
Cedric Ablaza
Andrian Celada
Gerald Lapuz
Ronnel Del Rosario
Jonathan Belorio

Black Water Elite, a team backed by the owners of the defunct PBL team Blu Detergent, is another school-based team seeing action in the ongoing PBA D-League Foundation Cup. The core of Black Water is represented by six players from the Arellano University Chiefs in the NCAA, and the team is coached by Leo Isaac, who is also the coach of Arellano.

Isaac, who also once coached the Mapua Cardinals, admits his team is pretty young, with no former pros and majority of the players still in college. Like the other school-based teams, he is using this stint more as preparation for the coming NCAA wars. "Bagong team, although school-based kami. May mga mainstays from Arellano University and may mga players from other schools. So basically talagang mga collegiate players itong mga ito. Nagkaroon kami ng opportunity dito sa D-League, especially the players, to prove themselves. Pagkakataon para makapagpakita sila," he said.

The team is led by Jerby Del Rosario, Gio Ciriacruz, and Ian Mazo, who have all played in the PBL and are all 24 or older. The six-five Del Rosario and the six-three Mazo both played for Isaac in Mapua, while Ciriacruz was Arellano's main man last year with an average of 19.2 points per outing.

The six Arellano mainstays are guards Vergel Angelo Zulueta and Rocky Acidre, swingmen Andrian Celada, Gerald Lapuz and Ronnel Del Rosario, and youthful center Prince Caperal, who at 18 years of age is one of the youngest players in the D-League. Celada is the only one of the six with PBL experience. Isaac is counting on the Chiefs' cohesion to offset their youth and inexperience.

To further beef up the team, Black Water signed up Norman Paul Ihalas and Gerald Ablaza of the STI Olympians, Jonathan Belorio from Letran, Mark Anthony Limpat from Informatics, and Joshua Saret, the former JRU Light Bomber who once scored 83 points in an NCAA game.

Saret had one uneventful season for the UP Maroons in the UAAP before leaving the school. He showed virtually none of the scoring prowess that made him a legend in JRU, struggling with the college game and unable to find his place in the rotation as the Maroons limped through a winless season. By joining the D-League, the five-eight spitfire automatically forfeits his college eligibility, since UAAP rules require players to suit up for at least two UAAP seasons before they can play in the D-League. Isaac, though, sees something in Saret that convinced him to sign up the young guard.

"May potential ang bata," said Isaac of Saret. "Only 19 years old and a lot of promise. Tulungan lang natin para sa panaginip niya sa big-time basketball. Maganda ang attitude ng bata, may potential. May ipapakita."

Ciriacruz and Celada will be tasked to lead this young team, said Isaac, who will keep things simple and not overcoach given the short duration of the tournament. "Basic basketball lang naman ako, eh. Doon lang kami sa pinakasimple, pinaka-effective na style."

Group A, to which Black Water belongs, is pretty much wide-open, with only the NLEX Road Warriors considered a notch above the rest.

You may email the author at sid_ventura@yahoo.com.