March 3, 2011

SMB Tests 3 Fresh Talents

MANILA—Three new faces will emerge from the San Miguel Beer dugout today, even as Meralco tries to end a two-game slump at the resumption of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen and the Bolts will collide at 5 p.m. with San Miguel parading three recruits from Air21, and Meralco under pressure to nail a win in the short nine-game elimination format.

The Smart Gilas national team, meanwhile, attempts to put a blemish on Alaska’s 2-0 slate in the second match at 7:30 p.m.

The national five stunned Philippine Cup champion Talk ’N Text, 103-98, in its debut and Alaska coach Tim Cone knows what his Aces, who own victories over Powerade and Ginebra, are up against.

Taller import

“That team is cohesive and they can run the floor,” said Cone. “They can play defense and have a taller import in Marcus Douthit.

“We need to play tough defensively and execute our offense as well.”

Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said the Bolts need time to jell after taking successive losses from the Barangay Ginebra Kings (98-115) and the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters (92-101).

“We are trying to stabilize our game but the tournament format is so short and we don’t have the luxury of time,” he added.

The Beermen, however, aren’t concerned about an immediate turnaround after unloading their championship core of Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros, Dorian Peña and Paul Artadi in a blockbuster trade with the Express.

Top three rookies

In exchange, the Beermen received freshmen Nonoy Baclao, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Rey Guevarra, the top three rookie picks of last year’s draft.

“This is the right time to rebuild the team,” said San Miguel coach Ato Agustin. “The trade with Air21 will be an important step for us to ensure the continuing success of the San Miguel franchise.

“Although this trade will not be a quick fix for the team, we believe that Al Hussaini, Baclao and Guevarra will slowly but surely be molded into the San Miguel system.”

Despite giving up key personnel and their conference opener to the Express last week, the Beermen maintain a reliable roster headed by Jay Washington, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and import Ira Brown.

Smart Gilas, which is preparing for the Fiba Asia Championship on Sept. 15 to 25, recently lost forward Mac Baracael to injury but will activate 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar to back up the 6-foot-10 Douthit in the slot.

Aguilar was finally cleared after suffering a knee injury ahead of the Guangzhou Asian Games three months ago.



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