MANILA,  September 22, 2004  (STAR) Regional league big boost to RP sports, says Fernandez.

Four-time PBA Most Valuable Player Ramon Fernandez hopes to spark greater interest in sports nationwide through the newly formed United Regional Basketball League or URBL.

Guesting at the PSA forum at the Holiday Inn Manila Pavilion, Fernandez said the regional concept of this new amateur league would create hometown heroes that will inspire the youth in their respective provinces to get into the discipline of sports and physical fitness.

"We’re looking at creating a renewed nationwide interest in sports and physical fitness and this will eventually benefit the country as a whole. Since basketball is the closest to the Filipinos’ hearts, we hope that URBL will set the trend in involving more of the youth not just in basketball but in all other sports as well," said Fernandez in the weekly forum sponsored by Red Bull, AgfaColor and McDonald’s.

"I believe it’s timely that the URBL was formed at this time. Creating interest in sports will be a big boost to the success of the Southeast Asian Games which the country is hosting next year," he added.

Fernandez also added he’s hoping URBL could discover new talents from the countryside who may help the RP cage team win the basketball crown anew.

The URBL will formally kick off with four teams starting hostilities at the New Cebu City Coliseum this Saturday. With the strong backing from Adidas, the opening ceremonies and the two matches will be aired live over ABC-5 from 1-5 p.m.

Fernandez was elated to see the involvement of a new partner in the basketball scene–the Quezon Province Huskers. Though Quezon already has its own state-of-the art multi-purpose Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City, this will be the first time that the province, under the helm of Gov. Wilfrido Enverga, takes a direct involvement in basketball.

Enverga acquired the services of veteran coach Francis Rodriguez whose colorful coaching career includes the celebrated back-to-back crowns for San Sebastian in the 1988-89 seasons of the NCAA and the unforgettable championship feat in the 1991 SEA Games staged here.

The team took on the monicker Huskers to emphasize the importance of Quezon’s traditional coconut industry.

Rodriguez tapped the support of his long-time protégés led by Jomar Tierra, Nonoy Catalan and Arnold Booker with the help of assistant coaches Jimmy Martirez and Ricky Magallanes.

Adding frontcourt strength are 6’4" Mel Latoreno, 6’5" Larry Rodriguez of PMI and ex-pro Vincent San Diego, the URBL’s tallest player at 6’9".

Rodriguez hopes to pull surprise aces in University of Manila streak shooter Louie Aquino and PSBA-QC guard Jonathan Belano, whose elder brother Felix became a star under his tutelage in the defunct MBA.

Completing the Huskers’ opening roster are UM’s Fernando de Leon and Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Santa Mesa standouts Eljun Lapera, Norman Nuñez and 6’5" Gilbert Tenorio.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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