Former collegiate stalwarts Paolo Hubalde, Val Acuña and Patrick Cabahug are expected to provide veteran leadership for MJASZenith Talisay in the forthcoming Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.
The three veteran players were introduced as the ball club – backed by popular sport wear and lifestyle brand Puma – was presented to the media in a recent media briefing online.
The 6-foot-3 Acuña, a former PBA player, said that he is excited for this opportunity to play following the struggles he and other players had last year when games at the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) had to stop because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really a difficult time, especially when you have no way of earning a living,” said Acuña, a four-time champion with San Mig Super Coffee (now Magnolia) in the PBA and MVP in the MPBL.
As the country continues to deal with the pandemic, the MPBL has yet to resume with its Lakan Cup.
MJASZenith Talisay team manager Jhon Santos, who is also the manager of Valenzuela in the MPBL, said their players eventually lost their jobs, relying mostly on allowances.
So when organizers of the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup decided to conduct a tournament, MJASZenith team owners Samson and Arlene Lato opted to join as they brought Valenzuela’s core from the MPBL to represent Talisay, Cebu in the newly formed league.
“We are really thankful that our owners accepted the offer for the team to play in the VisMin Super Cup, which will give these players the opportunity to earn for their families,” said Santos.
Joining Hubalde, Acuña and Cabahug are Kevin Rey Villafranca, Darrell Shane Menina, Jaymar Gimpayan, Lord Howler Casajeros, Egie Boy Mojica, Steven Zyron Cudal, Allan Dominic Santos, Mel Francis Mabigat, Jhaymo Eguilos, Joshua Dela Cerna and Lugie Cuyos.
Aldrin Morante has been named head coach while Bong Alvarez will serve as consultant.
“Times are really hard. Our players really experienced the difficulty of saving the small allowances just to survive,” said Santos, who personally monitors the daily activities of his players since the MPBL stopped playing.
The Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup, a professional league under the supervision of the Games and Amusements Board, has initially enlisted a total of 12 teams – six teams each from the Visayas and Mindanao – and will kick off April 9 with a tournament bubble in Cebu City.