MANILA, Philippines - Petron Blaze shows up with a resurgent roster as it begins its title defense in the season-ending PBA Governors Cup where Alaska Milk begins life under a new coach.
The Aces play their first game under coach Luigi Trillo versus the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters while the Boosters start their title-retention bid against the Powerade Tigers today at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.
The Tigers and the Elasto Painters are tipped to draw attention in unveiling highly touted imports.
Rain or Shine and Alaska clash in the 4:15 p.m. curtain-raiser then Petron and Powerade mix it up in the 6:30 p.m. mainer – an exciting opening twinbill in the tourney coming on the heels of the blockbuster Commissioner’s Cup and the Laoag All-Star event that was also a giant hit.
All four teams are eager to plunge into action, upbeat they can rebound from their poor showing in the second conference.
Petron, Powerade and Rain or Shine failed to make it past the Commissioner’s Cup elims. Alaska advanced to the playoffs but bowed to lower-seeded Barako Bull in the quarterfinals.
Missing the Top Four in each of the first two conferences, coach Joel Banal stepped down from his post, paving way for the entry of Trillo.
The youthful Trillo has high hopes they can do well in his first PBA tournament especially with Jason Forte back as their import. Forte was runner-up to Arizona Reid in the Best Import derby in the same tournament last year.
Forte will be up against Jamelle Cornley in tonight’s game. Cornley carved a reputation as a hard-nosed player at Penn State, winning the All-Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2006 then becoming All-Big Ten third teamer in 2008.
Petron Blaze and Powerade both missed the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs but both have good reasons to be upbeat in the Governors Cup.
The two teams figured in a trade deal after the second conference – among movements and developments they hope would help them in the long run.
“With the lineup that we have now, yes I believe we can compete well,” said Petron coach Ato Agustin.
Jay Washington and Chris Lutz return from injury, Dorian Peña hops back from Barako Bull while marquee rookie Marcio Lassiter jumps over from Powerade.
Staying as part of Agustin’s core group are Arwind Santos, Danny Ildefonso, Alex Cabagnot, Joseph Yeo and Denok Miranda. Their import is Eddie Basden.
Coach Bo Perasol and his Tigers likewise express readiness to roar off.
“We are working on a fresh perspective this conference – a mindset that has a ‘can do’ attitude,” said Perasol.
The amiable Powerade mentor isn’t complaining that they don’t have much time to work on cohesion.
“We need to live with that fact. Rashad McCants will be a huge part of our campaign as well as our new acquisitions,” said Perasol.
Gone are Lassiter, Doug Kramer and Celino Cruz. Coming in their places are Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Rey Guevarra, Lordy Tugade and Jondan Salvador.
Perasol said if Jayvee Casio continues to play steady, Gary David stays as explosive as before and Al-Hussaini lives up to his billing as a premier big man, the Tigers will be tough to beat especially with McCants in the mix.
McCants, 27, played three seasons with the North Carolina Tar Heels and led the varsity to the NCAA title in 2004-05.
He was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first round pick in the 2005 NBA draft, and he averaged 10 points in 249 games in four NBA seasons with the Wolves and the Sacramento Kings.