MANILA,  October 13, 2004  (STAR) A returning franchise, two new ball clubs, 18 rookies and a bunch of rising stars all make up for a vibrant and dynamic 23rd season of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL).

League commissioner Chino Trinidad and new board chairman Raymund Yu bared this yesterday as they gave a glimpse of what to expect in the league’s kickoff tournament — the Open Championship — at the weekly PSA Forum.

Eight teams are set to see action in the tournament unfolding Oct. 23, with rookie teams Granny Goose and Air Philippines out to give veteran squads Welcoat, Montana, Toyota Otis-Letran, Magnolia-FEU, Addict Mobile-Ateneo and the returning ICTSI-La Salle a good fight.

"One or two teams don’t make a league. This is going to be a collective effort from all of the eight teams so it’s going to be an exciting season for us," said Trinidad in the forum at the Manila Pavilion.

Yu, the other half of the amiable Welcoat franchise owners, stressed that innovations in the season opening tournament are just the beginning of what he plans to be a grander PBL in a year or two.

After Air Philippines and General Milling Corporation, the mother franchise of Granny Goose, Yu said the league is looking to add two more teams in its fold for the season-ending meet and hopefully, bring the number of squads to 12 next year.

He added that the PBL will also try to become more of a school-based league as has been the case with four of its current member teams.

"Of course, more teams would mean lesser cost and expenses for the ballclub owners, dahil maghahati-hati na lang kami sa gastos sa liga. But we’ll do it without compromising the quality of play in the league. We’ll try to make the PBL a better league," said Yu in the public sports program sponsored by Agfa Colors, Red Bull and Pagcor.

While he may be biased to Welcoat, Yu counts on Montana, Viva-FEU and ICTSI, composed of the entire core of reigning UAAP men’s basketball champion La Salle as the probable contenders for the Open Championship.

But Trinidad said Welcoat should be the team to beat owing to its championship experience and a rookie player whom he referred to as the Paint Masters’ ‘secret weapon.’

"He’s 6-7 and marunong namang mag-basketball," said Yu, referring to Fil-Am big man Anthony Washington who easily caught the fancy of Trinidad while watching several Welcoat practices.

Washington, who’s supposed to play for ICTSI for one conference before the team decided to field the entire La Salle squad, is just one of the rookies to watch in the coming conference along with top draft pick Gabby Espinas, the NCAA Rookie and Most Valuable Player awardee, Adamson big man Kenneth Bono, Letran’s Mark Andaya, Noy Javier of Perpetual, La Salle’s Gerwin Gaco and Jayvee Casio and FEU’s Jeff Chan.

Resident stars Arwind Santos of Magnolia, Ronjay Enrile of Toyota Otis, ICTSI’s Mac Cardona, Welcoat’s Jojo Tangkay and Chester Tolomia and Montana’s Alex Compton are again expected to lead their respective team’s campaign in the meet.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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