Mandaluyong and Muntinlupa, two teams which figured in a bitter tug-of-war for the services of highly-touted Ray Parks, will square off in the Independence Day opening of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League at the Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday.
After winning the Parks sweepstakes, the El Tigre worked on tinkering their line up and this early, they are considered as among the early favorites in the tournament that will be known as the Datu Cup.
The two will battle it out at 9:30 p.m.
Marikina, which created a buzz in the off seasons by tapping one of the most iconic figures in local entertainment industry, takes on General Santos City in the other game at 7:30 p.m.
The Shoemasters had just made Gerald Anderson as the face of their franchise. The popular movie and television personality was signed up by head coach Elvis Tolentino, who coached the celebrity baller in one of the recreational leagues several years ago.
But Anderson isn't the only celebrity baller in the roster of players seeing action in the MPBL this season.
Xian Lim, another popular actor/model, will also play in the fastest growing regional cage league for Mandaluyong.
A former varsity player himself, Lim will be joining a stacked El Tigre squad beefed up by ex-pros and top amateur players, whom the team acquired in the off season.
Parks, is no doubt, the star of the El Tigre. The son of seven-time PBA Best Import is fresh from a championship stint playing for Alab Pilipinas in the ABL and he will be joined in the line up by teammate JR Alabanza, former pros Mark Andaya and Jeff Javillonar, who were recruited from previous MPBL team Valenzuela Classic, ex-Quezon City Capitals forward Gian Abrigo, brothers Thomas and Axel Torres of La Salle, National University standout John Paul Cauillan, and collegiate star Rashleigh Paulo Rivero among others.
But the El Tigre will be facing a team that is no pushover -- the Cagers of Muntinlupa, which finished runner-up to Batangas City in the inaugural tournament of this league put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
A brief but colorful opening ceremonies, which will be highlighted by the parade of teams and their respective muses will usher the start of the new league, whose participation has gone up to 26 teams from the original 10-member cast.
Throughout the activity, 26 motor bikes and a brand new car will be raffled off to the ticket holders.