MPBL: Basilan Steel out to prove detractors wrong

Basilan Steel is looking to hit two birds with one stone by fielding a talented and competitive team in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakandula Cup.

“First, we would like to win more games this conference, make the playoffs and go all the way from there,” said Basilan Steel team manager Jackson Chua during his appearance in the 27th “Usapang Sports” of the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) at the National Press Club in Intramuros last June 20.

Basilan Steel team  manager Jackson Chua with TOPS President Ed Andaya
Basilan Steel team manager Jackson Chua with TOPS President Ed Andaya

“Second, and more importantly, we would like to showcase the beauty of Basilan and its friendly people,” added Chua, who graced the weekly sports forum together with head coach Jerson Cabiltes, former PBA standout Jonathan Uyloan, Dennis Daa, Gab Dagangon. Hessed Gabo, Jhaps Bautista, and Chris Dumapig.

Cabiltes said Basilan Steel is facing the herculean task of erasing whatever negative image of the province due to armed conflicts in the past.

And Basilan Steel — from the management to the coaching staff and the players — are ready to embrace the challenge

“There’s no better way to do now thru sports, basketball in particular,” said Cabiltes, who hopes to bring to the team his vast wealth of experience of playing competitively in various leagues over the years.

Both Chua and Cabiltes claim the team can do better this year with the strong support of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor and Basilan Cong. Mujiv Hataman, Mayor Julz Hataman, and councilor Hegem Furigay and sportsman Jimmy de la Cruz of Jumbo Plastics.

“Last year, the team finished second to the last in the Southern Division with a 7-18 win-loss record . We learned a lot of lessons, and we used it to form a championship-caliber team,” explained Cabiltes in the weekly forum supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, National Press Club, PAGCOR and HG Guyabano Tea Leaf Drinks and shown on Facebook live via Glitter Livestream.

“We know we have to win to be able to achieve our goal of creating a new image for Basilan and provide a new inspiration for the people there, especially the youth,” added Cabiltes, who is best remembered for piloting Hope Christian High School to the Filipino-Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation (FCAAF) 19-under title over Chiang Kai Shek last November.

Asked about the team’s biggest weapon in the 31-team tournament organized by Sen. Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend Kenneth Duremdes as commissioner, Cabiltes had a ready answer: defense.

“Most of the players we picked are known for their offensive prowess. They’re good shooters. But in our first game against Bicol, we surprised them with our defense. Yung defense namin mag-translate sa offense.”

Cabiltes and his coaching staff that also include Steve Tiu and St. Clare Colege mentor Jino Manansala, pointed to Davao, Zamboanga, Batangas, Bacoor, and General Santos as the teams to watch in the South Division.

Basilan’s top players agreed the team is a lot better now.

“I personally know most of the players in the team. They’re good players, so we have a good chance,” said Uyloan, who is still hoping to get into shape following an injury while playing for Rain or Shine.

Daa, one of the more experienced players in the line-up, and Dagangon, a hitman from Perpetual Help, vowed to play hard every game.

Gabo, one of two players who transferred to Basilan from Quezon City Capitals, said he will now quarterback for the team. “Parang maging pangalawang utak ako ni coach sa loob ng court.”

The team is scheduled to play at least three homes games in Basilan starting Aug. 26.

The Steel can’t wait to get the opportunity.

“Thru the MPBL, we want to show the world the beauty of Basilan. It’s a nice place at sobrang ganda. Hindi totoo yun lahat na nababalitaan natin dito sa Manila,” said Cabiltes.

The other members of Basilan are Jay Collado, Alleyn Bulanadi, Anthony Bringas, Bobby Balucanag, Jett Vidal, Shaq Alanes, Michole Sorela, Irven Palencia, Junjie Hallare, Darwin Lunor, Jhaps Bautista, Dennis Daa, Harold Ng, Mark Trinidad, Ar Raouf Julkipli and Philip Manalang.