Team Preview: Mapua Cardinals

Overall record last season: 7-11, 5th place
 
Head coach: Chito Victolero
 
Assistant Coaches: Yong Garcia, Randy Alcantara, Marlon Celis, John Bernales
 
Players:
 
Abad, Michael John
Banal, Gabriel
Banal, Jonathan Emmanuel
Brana, Mark Jayson
Cantos,Jeson Rey
Chien, Jumel Louie
Eriobu Jr. Joseph Emmanuel
Estrella, Andrew
Ighalo, Kenneth Kim
Layug , Raphael Joesh
Magsigay, Darrel Dave
Nimes, Josan Michael
Parala, Michael Gierald
Saitanan, Jessie
Stevens, Andrettimari
 
 
After failing to live up to expectations last season, the Mapua Cardinals head into the 88th season with several new faces.
 
Key Losses:
 
Just like reigning back-to-back champion San Beda, Mapua has also been hit hard with player departure. Allan Mangahas, the team’s silky playmaker, is no longer around along with a throng of big men – Fil-Palestinian Yousif Taha, Mark Sarangay and Jason Pascual. Wingman Rodel Ranises has also maximized his five-year playing eligibility.

Half of the team’s output practically came from those five players, with Mangahas churning out game averages of 13.9 points and Taha coming up with 11.7 markers on top of 9.5 boards per outing.
Sarangau, Pascual and Ranises, meanwhile, combined for 15 points and at least 10 boards per outing.

Simply put, the Cardinals will have their hands full to fill up the big shoes they have left.
 
Key Additions
 
The inclusion of Gab Banal, who has served his residency after a forgettable stint with La Salle in the UAAP, will somehow ease the pain for Mapua. Standing at 6-foot-6, Banal has shown flashes of brilliance during the off-season and now needs to bring it to the bigger stage. Other recruits who can make their presences felt are Mark Brana, Andrew Estrella, Jessie Saitanan, and Joseph Eriobu.
 
Holdovers
 
Last season’s top freshman Josan Nimes will be the team’s main option offensively this season. Averaging a team-best 15.8 points per game, Nimes is expected to take his scoring act to another level while Jonathan Banal, Kenneth Ighalo and Mike Parala are tipped to give valuable contributions on both ends.
 
Season Outlook, Strengths and Weaknesses
 
Despite the massive exodus, the Cardinals remain a dangerous force. Although lacking in size and heft, Mapua is expected to use its quickness to speed up the pace. A three-guard combination may augur well for coach Chito Victolero. Like the other squads, the Cardinals will have to double their efforts in crashing the boards and holding their ground on both ends. Though relatively small, the Cardinals need to unleash their acts collectively.
 
Prognosis
 
Blessed with a feathery touch, Nimes will have another sterling season in terms of scoring. He will emerge as one of the league’s prolific scorers but that won’t completely translate to team victories. A convincing win on opening day against fellow contender JRU might just boost Mapua’s Final Four intentions. A rejuvenated defensive pressure will also play a key role in their campaign.

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