ILONGGO basketball players will lead the NLEX-SCTEX Philippine team in the 2017 Merlion Cup which kicks off in Singapore from Sept. 20 to 24.
John Byron Villarias and Jaypee Belencion will banner the national team in the four-day games which features powerhouse teams in Asia.
Villarias is the uncle of Gilas Pilipinas cadet and Ilonggo cage star Kiefer Ravena, while Belencion is a former professional player who played in various PBA teams.
Both players were part of the PBA D-League champions team Cignal HD Hawkeyes.
The Jojo Lastimosa-mentored squad also includes Jason Perkins, Andreas Cahilig, Chris Sumalinog, John Murphy Raymundo, Alfred Batino, Harold Arboleda, AJ Vitug, and Mark Pangilinan.
The Philippines will be reinforced by their import, 6-foot-9 American Maurice Shaw, a 32-year-old veteran from Thailand Basketball League.
According to team manager Borgie Hermida, they are thankful to NLEX management led by Mon Fernandez, Rod Franco, Chris Lizo, and Ronald Dulatre for giving the players the opportunity to represent the country in the six-team tournament.
The team is looking forward to improve the runner-up finish last year of Mighty Sports-Philippines, which was defeated by Shanghai Sharks in the championship game, 78-77.
The Merlion Cup is an invitational basketball tournament featuring teams from Asia. This year, six teams will vie for the crown – Singapore Slingers, defending champ Shanghai Sharks, Malaysian Dragons, Seoul Samsung Thunders, Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor, and NLEX-SCTEX Philippine.