REIGNING CHAMPS REALTORS & KINGS COLLIDE
Purefoods takes on unpredictable Red Bull
Wednesday, 08 October 2008
Sta. Lucia Realty and Barangay Ginebra will be put to test early as the two teams that became the toast of the PBA last season make their debut in the 2008-09 KFC PBA Philippine Cup against each other Wednesday.
Pitting the two champions of last season apparently excites Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez, who views it as a perfect avenue to determine their readiness to compete and defend the title.
"This is a good test for us to know if our (little) adjustments and system is good and will be productive," said Fernandez, voted Coach of the Year by the PBA Press Corps for masterfully steering the Realtors to a 4-3 victory over the Purefoods TJ Giants in the Finals of this tournament last season.
With their success last season, both clubs opted not to alter their rosters. Rookie Kelvin Gregorio is the only new face in the Sta. Lucia lineup while free agent Jun-jun Cabatu was signed by the Kings, reigning Fiesta Conference champions, to augment their depleted unit.
An assortment of injuries to star guard Mark Caguioa (still in the US for rehab), Junthy Valenzuela, and Rafi Reavis worry Ginebra coach Jong Uichico, who can only hope that whatever is left of his bench will be able to rise to the challenge.
"We need a better start this conference than we did last season. That's our short- term goal," offered Uichico.
Ginebra's reported state of health didn't help to calm Fernandez, who dismissed suggestions that their 7:30 p.m. date with the Kings at the Araneta Coliseum would be a walk in the park.
"I'm excited to play Ginebra in our debut. This will be an interesting match-up between two champion teams. You don't let your guard down just because they tell you Ginebra has lots of injured players. That team has got a lot of talent, well coached and they enjoy tremendous crowd support. So we'll see what happens,” Fernandez said.
Purefoods and Red Bull also begin their campaign in the league's 34th season with Giants coach Ryan Gregorio having mixed emotions about playing the Barakos.
Except for Cyrus Baguio, Red Bull has been practically reduced to a team of role players after management decided to part ways with Mick Pennisi (the only remaining original member of the team that joined the league in 2000) who was traded to San Miguel. Also gone are back-up center Paolo Bugia and guards Topex Robinson and Kiko Adriano.
"We are practically starting over again. But what I've seen in practice and the pre-season games are encouraging. I think we can spring some surprises," said Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao.
But coming into their 5 p.m. encounter with the Giants, what Guiao will have in his disposal is a small team with 6-6 Carlo Sharma serving his one-game suspension in connection with his flagrant foul 2 that was committed during their battle for third place against San Miguel in last season's Fiesta Conference.
But even against a team that would not attract a second look, Gregorio wants his troops to give their best shot.
"The problem with Red Bull is that they are always unpredictable. We acknowledge that fact that we cannot take them lightly, even with the absence of big name players," Gregorio confessed.
The Purefoods coach said whichever side manages to control the tempo will have the edge.
"Allowing them (Barakos) to run and score on fastbreaks would be disastrous for u
Barangay Ginebra Kings Roster ( Thanks for the update Ankle Breaker)
Billy Mamaril 6'6" C 220 lbs Bakersfield
Rafi Reavis 6'8" C 210 lbs Coppin State
Macky Escalona 5'11" G 180 lbs AdMU
Ronald Tubid 6'1" G 175 lbs UE
Paul Artadi 5'9" G 150 lbs UE
Junthy Valenzuela 6'2" G 185 lbs SIT
Junjun Cabatu 6'3" F 215 lbs DLSU
Jayjay Helterbrand 5'11" G 170 lbs Kentucky State University
Chris Pacana 6'1" G 200 lbs St. Francis of Asisi College
Eric Menk 6'6" C 220 lbs Lake Superior State University
Alex Crisano 6'7" C 240 lbs Brooklyn
Mike Holper 6'7" C 210 lbs San Diego State
Mark Caguioa 6'1" G 185 lbs Glendale Community College
Sunday Salvacion 6'3" G 190 lbs CSB