Defending champion Talk ‘N Text battles Blackwater as Purefoods clashes with Meralco in the opener of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum today.
The two-year old team Elite, who made it to the playoffs for the first time last conference with three wins in 11 games, will face the Tropang Texters at 4:15 p.m followed by the Bolts versus Star Hotshots duel at 7 p.m.
Blackwater will parade the 23-year-old 6-foot-8 import Malcolm Rhett against the Texters, who will be playing without import Ivan Johnson who is serving a one-game suspension for hitting Blackwater players JP Erram and Frank Golla in a tune-up game.
“We told him [Rhett] he is still young and there’s a lot of hope [for him]to play in the NBA [National Basketball Association] although he already applied during the draft but he wasn’t picked,” Blackwater coached Leo Isaac told The Manila Times during interview.
“Malcolm should perform well, so that NBA scouts will notice his talents,” added Isaac. “He plays straightforward and very athletic. At the same time, he has a decent touch from the outside and perimeter. We believe he’ll make a strong impact this conference.”
The Elite are also expected to lean on Erram, Arthur Dela Cruz, Mike Cortez, Carlo Lastimosa, Jerick Canada and Bam-bam Gamalinda. Blackwater will try to reach the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs anew and surpass its three-win accomplishment last conference.
“We prepared very well against Talk ‘N Text and let’s see. My players are getting better each practice and the team is becoming cohesive,” Isaac said. “We are hoping to improve our finish last conference and I think we have a chance.”
Talk ‘N Text is bracing for Blackwater’s challenge without the suspended Johnson.
“We are ready to face them and we’re not bothered by Johnson’s one-game absence. I know the locals will step up,” said Texters coach Jong Uichico. “We just have to play tough defense against them. Ranidel [De Ocampo] is okay right now. He is playing.”
De Ocampo was sidelined during the entire Philippine Cup because of a slip disc sustained in weight training.
Playmaker Jayson Castro, Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams, Danny Seigle, Moala Tautuaa and Jeth Troy Rosario are also expected to step up for the Texters.
After a dismal 4-7 win-loss record last conference, the Star Hotshots will rely on 2011 Best Import Denzel Bowles to bounce back this conference.
The Hotshots are also counting on the skills and experience of James Yap, Ian Sanggalang, Peter June Simon, Alex Mallari, Allein Maliksi, Rafi Reavis, Justin Melton, Mark Cruz and Mark Barroca.
The Bolts, under coach Norman Black are also keen on redeeming themselves from a pitiful 1-10 win-loss finish last conference. They initially took Malcolm Thomas but the latter was replaced by the 6-foot-10 Arinze Onuaku after suffering a knee problem.
“When he [Thomas] arrived here he was healthy but after our first two practices he felt pain in his knee. I don’t know if it is left or right,” team manager Paolo Trillo told The Manila Times. “Onuaku is our second choice after Thomas.”
“I’m obviously expecting to have a better showing this next conference,” added Trillo. “Last conference, we had new seven players joining the team. We’re really getting better every practice during the off-season. The players and the staff are really working hard to be in best possible shape.”
Veteran players Gary David, Reynel Hugnatan and playmaker Jimmy Alapag will lead the Hotshots with the support of young guns Ryan Buenafe, 6’7 center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Cliff Hodge, Jared Dillinger, Baser Amer and Chris Newsome.