The 2023 season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) will begin on March 11, partnering anew with the leading local sports betting platform OKBET to bring an even more exciting basketball game.
The renewal of their collaboration happened last February 16, after Valentine’s Day. The partnership was attended by MPBL’s founder Manny Pacquiao at the OKBET “Together, We Rise” grand launch at the Hilton Manila Hotel.
“I am looking forward to continue working with OKBet, which is one of our trusted partners in championing sports development and the welfare of our Filipino athletes. OKBet shared our goals to provide more opportunities to aspiring talents from all over the country, and help the local competitive scene recover from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Pacquiao.
For this season, OKBET aims to continue helping revitalize the country’s economy while keeping the partnership with MPBL more vibrant.
MPBL 2023 Preseason Invitational
Before starting the season, the league organized a pre-season pocket tournament. From February 21 to 27, eight teams battled for the prize of P3 million.
The preseason tournament was held in Lagao Gym in General Santos. It featured seven MPBL teams and a local GenSan team called “Bulalakaw.”
A rematch between Zamboanga Family’s Sardines and Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards ensued in the finals of the preseason tournament. However, the result was different, with Zamboanga getting the win.
The 2022 MPBL runner-up defeated the reigning champions with the help of their newest addition: Dexter Maiquez. Maiquez, named Preseason MVP, finished the game with 29 pts and seven rebounds on 11-15 shooting to boost his team to a win, 88-80.
A New Season, Some Changes
Last year, MPBL had 22 teams battling for the championship. The league took it further by increasing the number of competitors this MPBL 2023 season.
At least 30 teams are expected to compete, with the format remaining the same—a single-match round-robin.
In that 30 teams, there will be returning squads like the Bicol Volcanoes, Bulacan Kuyas, Iloilo United Royals, and Pasay Voyagers. Cebu Casino Ethyl Alcohol and Parañaque Patriots will also make a comeback this season.
Aside from returning teams, there are also two new squads making an introduction to the league: Negros Muscovados and Quezon Huskers. Both have appeared in the 2021 Invitational.
Meanwhile, teams representing Bacolod, Batangas City, Bulacan, Imus, Makati, and Quezon changed their names.
- From Bacolod Bingo Plus, they will enter the MPBL 2023 as Bacolod Maskaras.
- Batangas City Embassy Chill is now known as Batangas City Tanduay Rum Masters.
- Bulacan Kuyas becomes Bulacan Kuyas – Baliwag City.
- Makati x MNL Kingpin, the sponsored team of OKBET, now goes by the name of Makati OKBET Kings.
- Quezon City MG is now Quezon City Gaz N Go.
There are also changes in the coaching department of some teams.
- Bacolod Maskaras replaced Alexander Angeles with Monel Kallos
- Alexander Angeles replaced Willie Generalao as coach of the Bacoor City Strikers
- Former GenSan Warriors coach, Marlin Martin, is replaced by Jesus Ramon Pido
- Imus SV Squad will not have Jeric Baylen instead of Renniel Cabrera
- Don Dulay will now lead the Makati OKBET Kings as a replacement for Vis Valencia
- Muntinlupa Cagers changed Vincent Salvador as the head coach, replacing him with Jack Azcueta
- Alvin Grey will no longer lead Quezon City Gaz N Go, as Rene Baena will take over
- Valenzuela XUR Homes also changed their coach. From Lester Alvarez, Jhon Velasquez will be leading the team.
MPBL 2023: Who will Win? Who will Lose?
With the MPBL 2023 season about to begin on March 11 at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City, some teams have already prepared themselves to have a chance at bringing home the chip.
Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards
For the 2022 MPBL champion, the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards lost an important piece of their core: Hesed Gabo. He finally had a chance to take his talents to PBA after NLEX offered him a one-year deal.
The 28-year-old former Vanguards guard produced 7.1 points per game, 5.7 assists, and 2.5 rebounds. Gabo was an important asset for Nueva Ecija during their match against Zamboanga Last December 2022. He scored a career-high 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists in game 2 to take game 1 of the MPBL Finals.
Although they lost Gabo, they still have Byron Villarias, Philip Manalang, Jonathan Uyloan, Bobby Balucanag, Renz Palma, and Jessie Collado. Michael Mabulac, Pamboy Raymundo, Michael Juico, JP Sarao, and Chris Bitoon also renewed their contracts. Clark Derige, Shaq Taganas, Will Mcaloney, Stephen Siruma, and John Arenas also re-signed with the team.
Vanguards also have Harvey Pagsanjan, a former UE Red Warriors, joining the squad. During his stint at UAAP, Pagsanjan averaged 5.08 points and 4.08 rebounds.
The 2022 MPBL Champ also acquired Joshua Fontanilla, a former Manila City Stars, and rookie Rich Guinitiran.
Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines
The second-runnerup of the 2022 MPBL Finals is looking to have its revenge on the Vanguards. They let the 2022 MPBL champs taste what will come in this new season, defeating Nueva Ecija in the preseason tournament.
To further increase their firepower, Zamboanga added former San Juan Knights Dexter Maiquez. He is a forward with exceptional range, making him a viable threat from deep and inside.
Bacoor City Strikers
Strikers are still looking for competitive pieces. They recently held tryouts and acquired Mark Yee, Alwin Alday, and Jayboy Solis.
These three additions have yet to prove they deserve their spot once the season begins.
Last season, the Marlins were hailed as the “most improved team.” The squad is looking competitive this season, especially with the addition of Carlo Escalambre and Cederick Labing-isa.
Both newly-acquired players were part of the Caloocan Supremos in the ‘19-’20 season of MPBL. One of their most iconic performances was when they defeated the Mindoro Tamaraws. Escalambre put in an overwhelming 35-point performance, while Labing-isa had 21 points.
With the addition of these two high-scoring players, Marlins will be a scary opponent to face.
The Muscovados have yet to prove themselves MPBL-worthy. To prove they deserve their spot, the team signed Mark Maloles, Richard Albo, Jonathan Gantalao Jr., and Lugie Cuyos.
It also signed seasoned players RJ Ramirez, Edrian Lao, and Jason Melano.
Valenzuela XUR Homes Realty
Valenzuela acquired two new rookies in Jeric Diego and Brian Lacap.
Bacoor City Strikers
The Strikers renewed the contracts of Paolo Castro, Rocky Acidre, and Mark Montuano. They let go of Ian Melencio, Dave Moralde (now with Muntinlupa Cagers), and RJ Ramirez (transfer to Muscovados).
Rizal Golden Coolers
The Coolers have signed King Rodney Fuentes and Art Patrick Aquino. They also acquired rookies Jerick Pido and Jonas Tibayn.
Completing their lineups are Felix Apreku from Valenzuela and Enzo Joson of Marikina.
With the new season about to unfold, will the Vanguards make the first MPBL two-peat, or will the Sardines exact their revenge against the reigning champions? Will the new teams show they can be a contending team? Can San Juan and Batangas add another chip?
These are some of the questions that have yet to be answered once the season starts. Tune in on MPBL through OKBET!
MPBL 2023: A Continuation of an Advocacy
To prevent fixing games, Pacquiao, MPBL’s founder, ensured that his league would stay true to the game of basketball.
The local league frowns upon match-fixing. Partnering for the second time with OKBET is helping the organization and the government spread gambling awareness.