There was a time when the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA) was considered as among the big three collegiate tournaments in the country.
La Salle was among the school participants as well as St. Francis of Assisi, Lyceum of the Philippines and Emilio Aguinaldo College.
Lyceum and Emilio Aguinaldo College had gone a long way as both schools are now members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the country’s oldest collegiate league. In fact, the Pirates even made it to the championship round of the season just passed before losing to the more experienced San Beda Red Lions.
St. Francis has produced some of the local big men who played in the PBA the past few years.
We’ve seen how the De Ocampo brothers — Ranidel and Yancy — won championships in the PBA.
Ranidel is still considered as the best stretch four forward while Yancy remains valuable with his towering 6-foot-9 that made him an able back up for June Mar Fajardo at San Miguel Beer.
Lyceum has produced Gary David, who before Terrence Romeo, was the acknowledged scoring champion in the PBA.
Emilio Aguinaldo College? Well, there’s Ronjay Buenafe, a member of the 2012 Rain or Shine champion squad who is on his way to making his return to the PBA via the NLEX Road Warriors and be reunited with his old coach, Yeng Guiao.
But what makes NCRAA, which opens on Dec. 5, more exciting today is that 16 teams will compete and for the first time in the history of the league, the league has drawn participation from the provinces nearby, which also means that participants will also need to travel and play in a home and away game.
The 16 teams will be divided into two groups – Asian Institute of Maritime Studies and University of Luzon will be in Group A together with De Ocampo Memorial College, Olivarez College, Philippine School of Business Administration-Quezon City, Saint Francis of Assisi College, Technological Institute of the Philippines and New Era University while AMA and PMMS are in Group B along with De La Salle University-Dasmariñas, Emilio Aguinaldo College-Cavite, National College of Business and Arts, PATTS College of Aeronautics, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa and University of Makati.
This season’s NCRAA has also strengthened its front office following the inclusion of long-time basketball executive Buddy Encarnado while tournament commissioner is Bai Cristobal, a former member of the fabled Crispa Redmanizers.
As the silver season unfolds, the NCRAA is trying to get its billing as the third best collegiate league in the country and with the exciting concept, it won’t be surprising the league will be able to achieve it.
There’s more than meets the eye in the celebration of the league’s 25th season.
Rey Joble has been covering the PBA games for more than a decade. He is a member of the PBA Press Corps and Philippine Sportswriters Association.