It's the human and fun side of our sports heroes

Austria on fleet of SMB guards: Sakto lang… New-look Star gelling nicely… Kobe Paras comfortable with fame


“Halos lahat ng teams nagpalakas dahil nga tina-target kami,” Austria said yesterday, three days before the Beermen square off with the Star Hotshots in a lone match kicking off the season-opening tourney. “Kaya nga I’ve been telling the players not to take anything for granted because one moment of complacency baka mabulaga kami.” Malaya


“Sa tingin ko tama lang ang composition ng team naming ngayon,” he said. “Si RR can lessen the minutes of Alex and Chris (Ross) na problema talaga namin before, while Agovida keeps getting better at konti na lang adjustments and he can be a very good wingman. Si Van Opstal naman matagal nawala sa basketball, but once he gets his bearings he can be of big help up front.” Even Fajardo has trimmed down and is healthy, helping boost Austria’s optimism. “Admittedly siya ang bread and butter ng team namin at ngayong kundisyon at healthy siya mas gumaganda ang chances namin,” Austria said. “Everybody in our team should take the cue, that we cannot afford to relax,” he added. “Malaki ang bull’s eye na nasa likod namin and it’s up to us para hindi kami tamaan ng kidlat.” Malaya


With RR Garcia now in tow, the two-time Coach of the Year believes that his side is well-prepared in case nagging injuries haunt the Beermen once again this year. “Para sa akin, sakto lang yung guards ko dahil long season ito eh,” he said. “If you’ll notice, kaya nag-suffer yung team namin dahil maraming injuries na nangyari. Ngayon, kapag loaded ka ng guards, marami kang choices at hindi bugbog yung mga players.”


Victolero is not one to shy away from the challenge, even looking forward to the match pitting his team against June Mar Fajardo and the rest of the Beermen. “Medyo mabigat… imagine two-time defending champion agad?” said Victolero. “But as I’ve been telling the players, we have to look at this as an opportunity para makita kung nasaan na ang team in terms of our preparations. “Sa tingin ko kasi, right now mga nasa 80 to 90 percent pa lang kami dahil hindi pa nagje-gel ng husto ang team. Imagine, mga one month pa lang kaming magkakasama.” Malaya


Returning to the Purefoods franchise he suited for in 2012, the 6-foot-6 forward is optimistic that he can make waves this time out for Star.“Masaya ako kasi dito ako nag-start. Ngayon, nandito na ulit ako,” he said. “Sana madala namin dito yung desire dumepensa at all-out effort. Ganoon rin naman yung team na ito dati,” he said. “Kulang-kulang kami sa Mahindra pero buo kami sa defense. Dito, mas may materyales na so hopefully, madala namin dito yun sa Star.”


“Us veterans, we can collaboratively come together and do the best we can to try to help out through what we experienced in our careers,” Dillinger said. “What we’re focusing on is trying to cultivate a positive environment, a winning environment for Meralco. We haven’t really proven anything, so we’re humble, we’re still hungry, and we still have a lot to do.” “We have our work ahead of us. We’re happy that we made the Finals, but it’s been two weeks now, all is forgotten, and no one cares,” said Dillinger. “We have to continue to prove ourselves that we want to be up there in the upper echelon against the other great teams. We have lots of work ahead.”


Looking to take advantage of its speed, Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia wants to implement small ball this coming season. “I think it’s the trend right now,” he said. “Medyo nangangapa pa si JC na sya yung four, but so far, I’m pleased naman,” he said, while also looking at Willy Wilson to play the role, together with big men Michael Miranda, Norbert Torres, and new acquisition Doug Kramer. “Still, we have to match up sa rebounding ng other teams if we play small-ball.”


“Sa practice kinuha ko na talaga yung timing ko, dahan dahan lang, di na talaga ako naiilang, ready na ready na,” Manuel told FOX Sports after their Thursday practice at Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. “Di ko na masyadong nafefeel yung pain. Sana di na ako ma-injury ulit,” he stressed. Fox Sports Asia


JERRY Codinera has been hired by Racal as head coach for its PBA D-League after leading the Arellano Chiefs to the NCAA Season 92 finals. Codinera takes over the helm after Racal’s former mentor Caloy Garcia was installed as coach of the Rain or Shine Elastopainters in the PBA.


TWO more highly regarded youngsters are without a team. The pair of Ronald Pascual and Roy Sumang found themselves released by Blackwater to the free agent pool with just three days left before the new season of the PBA fires off at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Pascual was no longer included in the initial lineup submitted by Blackwater during the press launch of the league’s 42nd season. Sumang followed suit when a revised roster was forwarded to the league office on Thursday. A top official of Blackwater confirmed to the team’s move to relegate the two young players to the free agent list.


“I was just standing in line,” the 19-year-old Paras said of the unusual encounter. “And the whole time, I was thinking ‘it’s so bright.’ And I think he didn’t know that his phone’s camera flash was on. He was videoing me the whole time.” After a few minutes, the playful Paras decided to have some fun. “I knew he was videoing me, so I looked back at the camera, starting doing poses, and I was like ‘I think your flash is on.’” Paras said with a laugh. “And he was like ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And he was like ‘You play for Creighton right?… I know I knew you.’” Fox Sports Asia


Although Ateneo has swept FEU in their head-to-head meetings in the elimination round for the second time in the last three years, Baldwin remains wary, knowing the Tamaraws have what it takes to turn what’s been shaping up to be a dream flight by the Blue Eagles into a complete nightmare. “I think FEU is going to be a monster,” he stressed. “Their players have experience and their coaching staff is experienced out there in these situations. For one second, I don’t think we are anything other than the underdogs.” Fox Sports Asia


FAILING to suit up for Ateneo last year was enough motivation for Thirdy Ravena to give it his all this season. “Nag-double time ako this year. Motivation sa akin na ibigay ko ang lahat kasi hindi ko nabigay ang lahat last year,” Ravena said after the Blue Eagles scored a 73-67 victory over Adamson U last Wednesday and clinched the second twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four of the 79th UAAP basketball tournament.“It’s enough motivation na nakarating kami sa Final Four. I wasn’t even looking back at last year,” Ravena, younger brother of former “King Eagle” Kiefer, said. “Gusto ko lang mag-move forward and leave it behind.” Malaya


Considering Ravena was a two-time MVP who almost singlehandedly carried the Blue Eagles in his back for Season 78, many discounted the Blue Eagles as a solid title contender. But looking at Ateneo’s placing at the end of the eliminations of UAAP Season 79, the doubters were proved wrong.


“Tough game. Tough win for us. It’s a hard-earned win. We’re happy our players stayed focused in spite of the good performance of Adamson. It wasn’t really a beautiful game. It was a defensive effort,” said Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga. The Blue Eagles, with Thirdy Ravena leading with 14 points and 13 rebounds,  avoided the complications of the three-way tie in second place. With Nieto and John Wong tallying 12, the Blue Eagles finished the eliminations with a 10-4 card at no. 2, behind the top-seeded La Salle, which entered the Final Four with 13-1 record. Manila Standard


“We can’t be satisfied with just being in the Final Four. If we are, I wouldn’t waste my preparing the team and reviewing our games. But when everyone answered in an affirmative manner after the game, when I asked if we’re still going to continue our journey. Hopefully, we can pull some surprises,” said Pumaren. Manila Standard


“Kami, our mindset is we have nothing to lose and we have everything gain,” said Pumaren. “(La Salle is) supposed to be 14-0 with that kind of line-up. They should really be dominating the whole UAAP.” Pumaren understands the Falcons will be going up against a team that perhaps has two of the top players in the UAAP today in Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng. “They probably have the best player in the UAAP. We are playing against the best number three guy rich in championship experience. For us, we are going to enjoy the party,” said Pumaren.


As far as Perpetual Help coach Jimwell Gican is concerned, prized import Bright Akhuetie remains part of the Altas’ future plans. But whether the 6-foot-7 Nigerian center has the same feeling is a different matter. “Para sa akin, 100 percent pa rin akong confident na maglalaro pa rin siya sa team namin,” Gican told FOX Sports in a phone interview, adding he’s no longer surprised to hear that Akhuetie is being poached by bigger Manila-based schools. “Noon pa naman ang issue na ‘yun. Ever since naman, marami talaga ang gustong kumuha sa kanya.” Fox Sports Asia