Fajardo-less Beermen, Hotshots collide as PH Cup opens

March 07, 2020

THE past five editions of the PBA Philippine Cup had been won by San Miguel Beer in different fashion. That’s the prize for having a June Mar Fajardo, the most dominating center to ever make the pro league.

It’s Philippine Cup once again, but the discussion is well focused on whether the Beermen would do well or not without the prized center.

SMB coach Leo Austria himself admits his Beermen indeed face daunting task because of Fajardo’s absence, but the multi-titled mentor at the same time hasn’t lost optimism altogether.

Here’s why.

“For us, this season is very tough dahil wala si June Mar but we made a lot of adjustments during his absence in the last one month,” Austria told People’s Journal yesterday, hours after conducting light workout at the Acroplis Gym.

“We will see tomorrow (today) kung ‘yung adjustment namin is really enough,” added Austria.

What probably makes Austria sound a bit optimistic is he still has a number of players who could deliver the goods in their bid to annex their sixth straight title in the prestigious All-Filipino Conference.

“I’m still confident we’ll do well dahil capable naman yung mga players na maglaro ng isang championship game, but as I said it’s really tough for us dahil we’re used to have June Mar playing,” said Austria.

“But since wala nga sya, mahirap. Ang inaasahan ko ay itong mga guards ko na capable of scoring and because of their experience,” added Austria, who is counting on Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Terrence Romeo for the outside shooting.

In the absence of Fajardo, Austria is expected to alternately use Mo Tautuaa, Billy Mamaril and Rusell Escoto in the low post position.

“Sa offense, kung si Jun Mar ay laging priority namin, ngayong wala siya, kailangang mag step up yung mga scorers namin dahil yung time ni Jun Mar will be distributed among them,” stressed Austria.

“Si Mo Tautuaa will be backed up by Billy Mamaril and Rusell Escoto. Most likely Mo will get the playing time that Jun Mar used to enjoy before,” he added.

Focus is well on the Beermen right on the start of the conference today, taking on Magnolia in a lone encounter blasting off the Philippine Cup and the league’s 45the season at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen and the Hotshots meet at 7:30 p.m. in a game of adjustment that will be preceded by the 44th Season’s Leo Awards which starts at 4:30 p.m., followed by the opening ceremonies for the 45th season.

Just as the Beermen made adjustments because of Fajardo’s absence, and so with the Hotshots, who, according to coach Chito Victolero, also did a lot of changes in their system, particularly in this game versus the Beermen.

“Okey naman kami. Since Monday pa we’re preparing for San Miguel.

Maganda naman preparation namin. We practiced both ends of the floor, defense and offense, I feel ready na kami and excited na rin mga bata for our first game,” said Victolero, who also directed his Hotshots during their practice at the West Gym in Greenhills yesterday.

Magnolia will be parading two new recruits in Chris Banchero and Jackson Corpuz (from Columbian Dyip) who, Victolero said, add depth in their bench.

“Gumanda yung rotation namin. Naging mas deep ang rotation namin. Of course we get two energy guys. Mga aggressive sila. Malaking tulong sila sa team. Bagay sila sa system naming,” said Victolero.

Incidentally, San Miguel and Magnolia were the same teams that disputed the last two editions of the Philippine Cup.

Meanwhile, the opening ceremonies will have the league paying tribute to the men and women who, for the past 45 years, have been instrumental in shaping what the league is today.

With the theme “Tayo Ang Bida,” the country’s and Asia’s first play-for-pay league will pay tribute to the members of the inaugural season’s PBA Board of Governors, President Emerson Coseteng of Mariwasa, Walter Euyang (Universal Textile), Domingo Itchon (Elizalde and Co., Inc.), Leonardo “Skip” Guinto (San Miguel Corporation),

Jose “Dondo” Lim III (Concepcion Industries, Inc.), Enrico Villaflor (Seven-Up Bottling Company), Porfirio Zablan (CFC Corporation), Pablo Carlos (Delta Motor Corporation) and Valeriano “Danny” Floro (P. Floro and Sons) and founding commissioner Leo Prieto.

The Leo Awards, held in honor of the late commissioner Prieto, the league will recognize the players who shone during the last season. To be awarded are the winners of the Most Valuabler Player, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, the Samboy Lim Award (Sportsmanship), members of the mythical selections, All-Defensive Team and Defensive Player of the Year.