IN the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Magnolia struggled with four different imports -- Vernon Macklin, Curtis Kelly, Justin Jackson and Wayne Chism -- and missed the semifinals for the first time under coach Chito Victolero.
The Hotdogs finished seventh in the elimination with an 11-6 win-loss record but lost to twice-to-beat Alaska Milk, 78-89, in the quarterfinals
Enter Romeo Travis.
The 6-7 American-born Macedonian player from Akron, Ohio is now doing it all for Magnolia in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
And Victolero likes what he sees in the 33-year-old Travis.
“He (Romeo) is not really a big scorer like other imports. But his leadership, malaking bagay yun,” said Victolero on the eve of Magnolia’s 4:30 p.m. game against winless Columbian Dyip at the Smart Araneta Coliseum
“Pati yun ibang nagagawa nya-- defense, communication, chemistry -- di mo makikita sa ibang import yun,” added Victolero, whose team is playing for the fourth time in 10 days.
Travis averages 20.8 points, 16.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.4 blocks per game in the Hotshots’ 4-1 start which put them in a tie with Blackwater for second place.
Only defending champion Barangay Ginebra has a better record at 5-1 in the second-ending conference.
A win by Magnolia will put it into a tie with Ginebra.
“Yun naman talaga ang istorya every import-laden conference. Ma-settle ka sa import mo then you have a chance,” Victolero told sportswriters after Magnolia’s dramatic 109-108 win over San Miguel Beer.
“Kung papalit-palit ka ng import, mahihirapan ka like nung last conference. That is why nagka-problema yung mga locals namin sa chemistry.”
Chemistry and a lot more are what keeping the Johnedel Cardel-mentored Dyip winless in six outings so far.
Akeem Wright is averaging 25 points -- ninth-best in the league -- 12.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists in six games for the Dyip.
But only two other players -- RaShawn McCarthy (14.5ppg) and Jack Corpuz (10.0 ppg) average in double digit in scoring.
Alaska Milk (3-1) and Rain or Shine (0-2) square off in the second game at 7 p.m.
The Aces, who are playing for the first time since losing 101-109 to Ginebra last Sept 2, are looking to move up in the standings and join Blackwater.
They get a chance to do it tonight against the E-Painters, who are raring to get into the winning track after consecutive losses to Talk N Text and Magnolia.
Actually, Rain or Shine was the last team to get out of the starting gate as the team allowed six of its players--James Yap, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, Chris Tiu, Raymond Almazan and Maverick Ahanmisi-- to reinforce Philippine team that finished fifth in the recent Asia Games in Jakarta.