The reigning Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) champions Davao Occidental Tigers are hell-bent on defending their title and have signed up nine new players for their campaign in the MPBL Mumbaki Cup, which is slated to tip off later this year.
Bannering the Tigers’ haul is ex-PBA player Keith Agovida, who head coach Don Dulay admitted to wanting to get for quite some time already.
"I was eyeing him since he was with Columbian," said Dulay, who is also an assistant coach with Rain or Shine, about the 6-foot-2 guard. "When I became head coach of Davao Occidental, I wanted to get him because he was perfect for the MPBL."
Agovida, though, is just one of several standouts that the Tigers have welcomed to their fold. Also recruited to join the squad are former Southwestern University big man Cris Dumapig, 6-foot-3 swingman Robby Celiz, 6-foot-5 big man Chris Lalata, 5-foot-10 combo guard Alwin Alday, 5-foot-9 floor general Irvin Palencia, 6-foot-2 guard Joe Presbitero, 6-foot-2 shooting guard Gab Dagangon, and 6-foot-4 big Dariel Bayla.
"It was a tricky situation this time since we were not able to hold a tryout because of the quarantine. But we were surprised that they were available and we were able to get these guys," said Dulay.
The bumper crop of new players will be taking the place of former Tigers Jerwin Gaco, Richard Albo, Yvan Ludovice, Kenneth Mocon, Harry Dumagan, Bogs Raymundo, Jeck Desabille, Embons Bonleon, and Don Adormeo.
Although the Tigers are coming off a title win, the team’s management felt that it needed to inject their roster with some youth and quickness.
"It was a hard decision, especially on my part. We talked about it with management but we needed to change our homegrowns and also get younger," shared Dulay, who steered the Tigers to a 3-1 finals triumph over San Juan last March inside the Clark bubble.
"We are competing for a back-to-back so we needed to be quicker on the defensive end and help us on the offensive end."
Still retained by the team are Lakan Finals MVP Mark Yee, Bonbon Custodio, Billy Robles, Chester Saldua, Marco Balagtas, Joseph Terso and Cebuano spitfire guard Emman Calo.
Dulay added that he can’t wait to work with his new team once the league gives them the green light to train. And he is hoping that their new recruits quickly embrace the culture they have built for the last three years.
"We're deep! I expect these guys to come in and be comfortably only because of the style we play. We don't rely on one person. We still have Mark Yee, Billy, and Bonbon who don't care about the limelight. We have Agovida, Alday, Dumapig, they are all fighters. I expect them to do well," said Dulay.
"I will adjust to them to make them feel comfortable but for the bigger picture, they have to adjust to us. I can't wait to work with them." (JNP)