WHEN the Tournament of the Philippines, popularly known before as Liga Pilipinas, returns to Xavier University gym, don't be surprised to see student dribblers display their wares on the wooden hard-court.

Without finality, however, the league's founding head Noli Eala agreed with other's observations that promising young hoopsters in the city deserve more exposure than the older ones.

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"Sang-ayon ako na bigyan natin ng break ang mga kabataan na makapaglaro sa preliminary games ng Tournament of the Philippines, and that's a good idea. Anyway, malayo pa naman ang election," jokingly said Eala, who was the one who launched Liga Pilipinas in 2008, during the induction of the Cagayan de Oro Basketball Federation's new set of officers and Board of Directors.

In the gathering held at Gaisano Mall's Peking Duck, newly-minted CDO-FB president Edgardo "Boy" Dacoco suggested that youth development in basketball must not be set aside in favor of so-called "grandiose reasons".

"Of course, we will be happy if our Sacred Heart team will be given an opportunity to play before the Liga Pilipinas fans. But for me, enough na kayo nga atong makita maski unsa pa na school o mga batan-on na basketbolista nga mahatagan og break," Dacoco said.

"Tigpakpak lang sa una ang mga dagko'g tiyan," added coach Lawrence Pastrano in jest.

The last time around, the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala Cebu Niños showed too much pride in beating host and bitter rivals Misamis Oriental Meteors, 75-71 in the championship game of the TOP's riotous swing in Cagayan de Oro.

The win made the Niños of coach Yayoy Alcoseba, the first three-leg winner of the tournament after topping the opening leg in Manila and the sixth leg which they hosted.

Even with the loss that preceded a free-for-all rumble much to the chagrin of host Governor Oscar Moreno, coach Jun Noel and his MisOr Meteors were already assured of the No.2 seed in the playoff, owing to their productive effort in the early stages.

"We're still on top. No.1 ang Cebu ug No.2 kita so, aduna gihapon kitay twice-to-beat advantage sa playoff round. And we're very optimistic of improving our runner-up finish to Cebu last year in the national finals," said the amiable coach Noel in a chance encounter with this writer.