MANILA, NOVEMBER 8, 2003 (STAR) After a long hiatus, the country’s finest amateur players and upcoming stars take centerstage once again as the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) Platinum Cup fires off today with a promise of more surefire action that is expected to generate more interest even among its loyal fans.

And with the league’s renewed enthusiam and a new partnership with TV network giant ABS-CBN through Studio 23, commissioner Chino Trinidad expects nothing but a grand finale to the league’s 20 years of existence.

"After months of buildup, I can feel that all our players are raring to see action and showcase their talents which I hope will change their lives for the better," said Trinidad. "Our new partnership with Studio 23 is a great opportunity to grow along with our target audience."

Trinidad also added that starting this conference, the league will adopt a new slogan — "Ito Ang Tunay Na Ligang Bayan" – which focuses on the homegrown talents without undermining the capability and integrity of some Fil-foreign players.

"We’re not against hiring Fil-foreign players but what we want is to give our locals the chance to shine," said Trinidad. "We want them to work hard and aim high."

Newcomer Sunkist-University of Santo Tomas collides with defending champion Welcoat Paints while Fash Liquid Detergent (formerly Hapee) tangles with dangerous Montana Pawnshop in a pair of blockbuster matches at the Pasig Sports Complex.

On paper, the Paint Masters appear to be the team to beat, having recruited deadshot James Yap of the University of the East, two promising big men in 6-foot-8 JR Reyes and 6-foot-7 Ervin Sotto and as well as last conference’s Most Improved Player Nelbert Omolon.

Welcoat has also reactivated the peppery Paul Artadi, also from UE, signalling the team’s all-out bid to reclaim the crown they lost to the Liquid Power in the Sunkist Unity Cup.

The Liquid Power, out to build a dynasty of their own, will have their hands full against the Jewels although they boast of a formidable frontcourt combination in Rich Alvarez and Allan Salangsang. The Jewels, meantime, will rely heavily on Gary David, who owns perhaps the deadliest hands in the league right now.

A brief opening ceremony will highlight today’s affair with sexy siren Francine Prieto leading an array of charming muses for the participating teams. Prieto will be the muse of Blu Star while Jennifer Anne Ablan will parade with Welcoat squad, Czarina de Leon for Fash Liquid Detergent, Ma. Erica Callanta for Sunkist-UST and Rochelle Mendoza for Viva.

The Milo Amazing Kids will also showcase their tricks before the opening game.

Other teams taking part in the league are Blu Star Detergent, ICTSI-La Salle and Viva Mineral Water-Far Eastern University. The Philippine team will also be seeing action in some exhibition games as part of its buildup for the Vietnam SEA Games.

Aside from the Pasig Sports Center, games will also be held in San Beda College, University of Santo Tomas and Pasay Sports Complex, a move that is expected to bring the league closer to its fans.

Studio 23, acording to Trinidad will air games from 2-6 p.m. every Saturday and from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday games. For an expanded coverage, Studio 23 also forged a tie-up with Solar Sports which will air games not shown on Studio 23.

Both outlets, however, will jointly air the finals via a live simulcast.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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