MANILA, Philippines – University of the East and Centro-Escolar U will be parading their African imports when the two schools see action in the senior division of the Flying V Hanes Premier Cup unfurling on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Warriors will have rookie Moustaph Arafat of Cameroon to pair up with Sierra Leonian reinforcement Charles Mammie while the Scorpions, who are coming off a title conquest in the NAASCU and a fruitful stint in the PBA-D-League for Cafe France, will be showing off Rodrigue Ebundo and Aristotle Mutombo of Congo.
Derick Pumaren, who took over from Boycie Zamar at UE a couple of weeks back, said having Arafat and Mammie will be a good problem for his team since only one will get to play on the court based on UAAP rules, which will also be applied in this annual tournament considered as the strongest pre-collegiate event in the land.
"It's going to be a problem but a pleasant one," said Pumaren, who is back coaching in the collegiate scene since mentoring La Salle in the UAAP in 1991.
"On one hand we have Arafat, who is also tall at 6-6 but plays like a wingman while on the other, a Mammie who is a legitimate inside force. I told them since I took over not to be surprised if I will split their playing time come tournament time," he added.
For CEU mentor Egay Macaraya, the Scorpions are happy to have his two Congo players including the 6-9 Mutombo, who is a cousin of former NBA star Dikembe.
"Yes he (Mutombo) is a cousin of Dikembe and he will be vital in our campaign," said Macaraya, who played for the San Sebastian Stags in the late 80s that is considered as the one of the best college teams in the country as all of its players made the pros.
Pumaren, interestingly, will be paired against his former team, La Salle, the reigning UAAP champion, when UE opens its title-retention bid.
"We're the underdogs, however, because not only is La Salle the stronger and deeper team, my team and I have only practiced for a week and we're still a work in progress," said Pumaren.
"Results-wise, we're not expecting match because we're still in the process of changing systems because we're a faster team now and our main offensive weapon is our defense," he added.
UE, the 2008 winner, surprised everyone last year after it snatched the title from the favorites and should be one of the teams to watch out for this season.
Aside from Mammie and Arafat, Pumaren has inherited Roi Sumang, who is expected to captain the ship, Gino Jumao-as and returnee Chris Javier after the Recto-based squad lost Adrian Santos, Ralf Olivares, JM Noble and Jai Flores to graduation.