MPBL: Manila Stars aiming for better finish in Lakan Cup
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 10, 2019 04:59 PM
"Sana ngayong dadating na MPBL, makakapag-laro ulit kami sa Divisional Finals, para yung bawat isa sa amin, mag-improve pa," - Chris Bitoon
All things considered, the Manila Stars had a pretty good campaign in the 2018-2019 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup.
The Stars finished the elimination round with a 20-5 slate and went as far as the Divisional Finals, where they fell to eventual National Champions San Juan Knights in three games.
With their maiden season in the books, Manila is now looking to put on an even better showing in the upcoming MPBL Lakan Cup.
"It was good season for the Manila Stars, lalong-lalo na sa akin, kasi siyempre may Divisional Finals appearance," said Stars playmaker Chris Bitoon. "Makikita mo talaga yung players na gumagaling sa Divisional Finals eh, yung mga nag-iisip."
"Sana ngayong dadating na MPBL, makakapag-laro ulit kami sa Divisional Finals, para yung bawat isa sa amin, mag-improve pa," he continued.
Bitoon himself had a pretty good maiden season in the league, averaging just under 15 points, nearly four rebounds, and four assists per game, good for a spot in the All-MPBL First Team.
And while an individual achievement is always nice, Bitoon maintains that it's just a bonus. The main goal remains the same, and that's to go far into the postseason.
"Sa akin, yung pagiging kasama ko sa First Team, bonus na lang ‘yun, talagang ginawa ko lang yung trabaho ko, pero sana ngayon yung expectation is makapag-laro muli kami sa Divisional Finals, ma-feel yung crowd na ganun ka-lakas yung sigawan, sana ma-bless kami ni God na makapag-laro ulit doon."
With another Divisional Finals, and even a National Finals stint on their crosshairs, Bitoon says that a 'more organized' Manila Stars squad plans on taking things step by step, and among those steps is adding some depth in their roster.
"Siguro yung Manila Stars ngayon, mas naging-organized, naging organized, nag-recruit din kami ng mga bagong players, mga potential players na alam naman namin na makaka-tulong sa team namin," Bitoon shared.
Among those new recruits include former PBA All-Star Carlo Lastimosa, former Mandaluyong standout Gian Abrigo, and former De La Salle Green Archers Jollo Go and Mark Dyke, and former UST Growling Tiger Marvin Lee.
The Stars hope that these additions will more than make up for the loss of forward Riel Cervantes.
"Sana, ngayong darating na season, siyempre step-by-step, makapag-laro kami ng Finals, pero ang nasa isip muna namin ngayon ay bawat game eh, elimination, Divisional Finals, then yung National Finals," Bitoon added.
With so much new blood injected into the Stars' system, Bitoon is confident that he and fellow All-MPBL First Teamer Aris Dioniso will have a lot of help in the coming conference.
"Laging sinasabi ng coach namin na kahit sinong pwedeng ipasok, makaka-contribute eh. Siguro sa amin ngayon, kailangan lang namin na mag-tiwala sa isa’t-isa eh, hindi pwedeng kami lang ni Aris Dionisio, Chris Bitoon. Kailangan lang namin mag-tiwala sa isa’t-isa. Andiyan naman yung mga ex-pro pa namin na maasahan."
Right now, Bitoon is relishing the opportunity that the MPBL has given him, and playing for the capital city's home team has given him the perfect avenue to showcase his skills.
"Sobrang saya kasi ultimo mga bata, hanggang sa mga matatanda, mga nanay, talagang naka-support sa amin eh. Pag pumupunta kami sa venue namin sa practice, may mga ‘Idol, idol!’, magpapa-picture sila, kaya sobrang nakaka-proud kasi kahit hindi ka kilala, kahit hindi ka galing sa malaking school, nabibigyan ka ng halaga sa Manila."