All the pieces have fallen into place, making everybody at Petron Blaze excited for their coming campaign in the PBA Governors Cup that kicks off May 20.
Unlike the last three conferences, the Boosters are now well-stocked due to a key acquisition, a good import and the return of some old reliable players, all combining to make them positive their title-retention campaign in the season-ending tourney will go smoothly.
"Parang ang dali sa mata ng coach hawakan ang team ngayon," related coach Ato Agustin, who has conducted practices a week before coming here for the 2012 PBA All-Stars Weekend.
"Kung minsan nga, parang hindi na kailangan ang coach dahil iyung mga players ko mismo parang kayang kaya na nila mga plays," added the man before heading back to Manila.
There is the seeming reprise of last season, when Petron wound up last after the eliminations in the mid-season Commissioner's Cup and then bounced back big-time by beating heavily favored Talk N Text in seven games to cop the Governors Cup title. This year, the Boosters wound up ninth in the Commissioner's Cup.
It is on his team having a full complement of players this time that makes Agustin more than upbeat. "Last year and even before that kulang-kulang kami ng tao because of injuries. Ngayon buo ang team," he stated.
The trades that bagged Marcio Lassiter from Powerade and former center Dorian Pena from Barako Bull and the return from injuries of Jay Washington, Dondon Hontiveros and Chris Lutz have further bolstered a Petron crew that already has the likes of Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Joseph Yeo, Denok Miranda and Nonoy Baclao.
Lassiter, Lutz and Hontiveros should be of big help in the wings and so should Washington and that tickles Agustin the most.
"Before parehong kuwatro (power forward) ang laro nila, but now si JayWash ang nasa tres (small forward) at si Arwind ang kuwatro sa opensa at palit-puwesto sila sa depensa," related Agustin.
"That way, Arwind will be most effective tuloy sa pagbibigay ng weakside help."
"Kami naman ni JayWash nag-pa-practice na para mag-compliment ang laro namin sa transition at pareho kaming excited," said Santos, who used to be Washington's main reliever before the latter was sidelined by a serious foot injury he suffered in Petron's very first game in last season's Governors Cup.
Pena has also displayed renewed vigor in his game after being re-acquired from Barako.
"Mas focused siya ngayon at kita iyun sa gana niya sa practice," said Agustin of the 34-year-old who spent his first 11 seasons in the PBA with the flagship team of the San Miguel Corporation group.
And then there is Eddie Basden.
A 29-year-old former Chicago Bull, Basden was supposed to reinforce Alaska in the same tournament last year but was sent home after failing to make the then maximum height limit of 6-foot-4.
With the ceiling now upped to 6-5, Basden is free to strut the same wares that have taken him to such places as Europe and South America.
"He can play the guard positions and also the forward spots," related Agustin. "Pero kahit hindi siya masyadong umi-score p'wede na rin kasi marami na naman kaming shooters."
Cabagnot said he is also excited about Petron's prospects but pointed out one key factor. "We definitely need to get our acts together," said the southpaw playmaker.
"Last conference we relied on our import too much, so we should bear in mind that our import is there to support the locals. Hindi siya dapat gumawa ng lahat. This time we have to do our part," said Cabagnot. (NC)