Davao Occidental Tigers overhaul team with 9 new players

By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno

May 18, 2021, 8:04 am

MANILA – The Davao Occidental Tigers will be a relatively new team entering the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League's (MPBL) fourth season.

Although they still get to keep last season's Finals Most Valuable Player Mark Yee, some of his support crew are not with him anymore.

Davao Occidental announced on Monday night that the team has let go of Jerwin Gaco, Richard Albo, Yvan Ludovice, Kenneth Mocon, Harry Dumagan, Bogs Raymundo, Jeck Desabille, Embons Bonleon, and Don Adormeo.

Coach Don Dulay said the pace of the upcoming MPBL season, which like the finale of the last season will happen inside a bubble, prompted him to go for a younger core.

"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," said Dulay, who steered the Cocolife-backed squad to a 3-1 triumph over San Juan last March in Subic.

Headlining the new Tigers is former high school sensation Keith Agovida, who according to Dulay is on his wishlist.

"I was eyeing him since he was with Columbian (now Terrafirma)," said Dulay, who is also an assistant coach with Rain or Shine in the Philippine Basketball Association, 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."

Joining Agovida are free agents 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-3 forward Chris Dumapig, 6-foot-2 guard Joe Presbitero, 6-foot-2 shooting guard Gab Dagangon, and 6-foot-4 big Dariel Bayla.

Staying put with the club aside from Yee are Bonbon Custodio, Billy Robles, Chester Saldua, Emman Calo, Marco Balagtas, and Joseph Terso.

Despite the face-lift, Dulay believes Davao Occidental's new lineup is stacked.

"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," Dulay said.

The MPBL has yet to set the date for the opening of the new season, which will be called the Mumbaki Season, although Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes admitted during last week's Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum that they might do away with the traditional June 12 start due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. (PNA)