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Webb eyes key role for Mark Cruz. Sangalang is back. Fajardo is Gilas missing link.



The Hotshots are thrilled to reactivate Ian Sangalang who suffered an ACL injury after playing only one game for the Star last season. New coach Jason Webb has high hopes for rookie Norbert Torres to make a splash as well as veteran recruits Ronald Pascual from San Miguel and Jake Pascual from Barako. Gone from last season’s roster are Joe De Vance (to Ginebra), Don Allado and Mick Pennisi (to Barako Bull). The Star’s holdovers are Marc Pingris, James Yap, P. J. Simon, Mark Barroca, Allein Maliksi, Justin Melton, Rafi Reavis, Alex Mallari, Yousef Taha, Jerwin Gaco and Lester Alvarez. In Webb’s staff are Johnny Abarrientos, Mon Jose and Tony Boy Espinosa. While Torres is the only rookie in Webb’s cast at the moment, another freshman Mark Cruz of Letran may hop in. “We’re still looking at Mark but that might happen after the NCAA,” said Webb. “No commitments yet, though. I hope our team plays well. It’s not going to be easy but it’s just up to us to embrace the challenge.” Philstar



Without the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, originally included in the national pool by coach Tab Baldwin but who excused himself from playing to recover from a recurring foot injury, Gilas found itself short of a big man in their 78-67 loss to the host country. “Oo naman, malaking bagay si June Mar ‘dun kasi kulang tayo sa malalaki eh,” Pingris told after Star’s tune-up game against San Miguel Beer at the Ronac gym. “Pero wala eh,” he was quick to add. “Nandun tayo eh. Kailangan tayo lumaban kahit wala yung mga key players natin. Kailangan natin maglaro ng maayos.”


Forward Vic Manuel reconsidered his decision to forego his stint with the Manila North team, allowing the Calvin Abueva-led squad to keep an intact lineup for the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Final slated Thursday and Friday in Abu Dhabi. The team is looking to improve on Team Phl’s fifth-place finish in Sendai last year. “Sir, I’m joining the trip. My apologies for the concern I caused. I’m ready to fight for the country,” said Manuel in a text message to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios last night. Philstar


The SBP had considered tapping Asi Taulava as a replacement but the NLEX Road Warrior center was with his PBA mother ball club in a team-building session in Cagayan de Oro. Beau Belga, Ian Sangalang and Cliff Hodge were other PBA players eligible to take over from Manuel, but they’re also unavailable with the PBA set to fire off Sunday. Terrence Romeo, KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos and Rey Guevarra are ineligible since they played for another team (Manila West) during the Manila leg. “It’s so risky if I let Calvin Abueva, Troy Rosario and Karl Dehesa to play without a fourth guy. They would be at risk of suffering injury,” said Barrios. Philstar


San Beda seeks a 10th straight top seeding in their duel with Letran. The Knights won their first-round tiff, 93-80, then the Lions struck back, 77-73, in the second round. Interestingly, San Beda has never lost in previous three playoff games for the top spot, beating Arellano, 97-69, last season, San Sebastian, 88-85, four years ago, and San Sebastian again, 71-65, six seasons back. “There is a tradition in San Beda so I guess we might as well try our best to keep it,” said San Beda mentor Jamike Jarin. Philstar


The Knights, in contrast, are out to finish at No. 1 for the first time in 10 years or since going all the way to win the championship versus Philippine Christian U. “We will fight them, kahit tumbang preso o patintero pa yan,” said Letran coach Aldin Ayo of their much-awaited face-off with the reigning five-peat champions. Philstar


What will cripple San Miguel in the early going this season is back-to-back MVP JuneMar Fajardo’s absence. He’s still hobbled by bilateral plantar fasciitis in both feet, a condition that prevented him from joining Gilas at the recent FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha. How long Fajardo will stay away from the court is anybody’s guess. Rest is the only cure for his ailment. “JuneMar’s gained some weight, about 10 pounds, during his layoff but he’s the type who can get back in shape quickly,” said a team insider. “A few weeks ago, he tested himself by running around the oval and his left foot started to hurt. So that delayed his return to practice again.” Philstar


University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University may have started to pull away from the rest of the pack, but there’s no slowing down for these two UAAP leaders. Both the Tigers and the Tamaraws hold at least a three-game cushion over their opponents with similar 7-1 records early in the second round of the men’s basketball event. Rivals Ateneo and La Salle already stand as their closest competitors with similar 4-4 slates.  “The tournament still has a long way to go,” said UST coach Bong dela Cruz. “We’ll see what will happen, but we want to be at 1 or 2.” Inquirer


“Before this [seventh win], we could have been easily at 3-4 or 4-3,” said FEU coach Nash Racela, noting that some of his Tamaraws’ tight victories could have gone the other way and pulled them down to the middle of the pack. “We couldn’t be happy where we are right now. We have to focus more.” Inquirer


“We don’t want to end our season yet. We will fight for every possession and neutralize their strengths,” said Arellano coach Jerry Codinera. Inquirer



“Can we beat Arellano with the kind of defense we’re playing?” said Co after the Cardinals trounced Emilio Aguinaldo College last week to clinch a playoff for the Final Four. Inquirer


His versatility was key for the Growling Tigers, who made the UAAP finals while Mariano was in uniform both in 2012 and 2013.Natutuwa talaga ako sakanila, lalo ni si Daquioag at si Kevin, kasi diba medyo galing silang injury? Tapos ngayon pinapakaita talaga nila na talaga sila yung leader sa team tsaka nananalo sila,” said Mariano. Rappler


The two squads are already assured of the twice-to-beat incentive in the final four given to the top two teams. Both San Beda and Letran, however, said they are going to come out fighting to build momentum and for pride. “We are coming into the match 15-strong and ready,” said San Beda coach Jamike Jarin. “We are going to play hard against them,” Letran’s Aldin Ayo, for his part, said. “Even if they were children’s games like patintero or tumbang preso, we won’t allow ourselves to be beaten by San Beda, what more basketball,” he said. Bworldonline


The 6-foot-9, 42-year-old center is fresh from a stint in the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China, but “The Rock” has agreed to heed the call and represent the country anew. He will join Gilas Pilipinas teammates Calvin Abueva and Troy Rosario and Mahindra guard Karl Dehesa in forming a solid quad. Head coach Eric Altamirano confirmed the news to BusinessWorld in a text message. “Asi Taulava will replace Vic Manuel, who begged off due to personal problems,”wrote Mr. Altamirano. Bworldonline


Letran and San Beda split their first two encounters this year with the former taking the first, 93-80, on July 16 and the latter snatching the second, 77-73, last week. Interestingly, San Beda has ended up the top seed in the last nine years and has never lost its previous three playoff games for the top spot against Arellano University, 97-69, last season; San Sebastian, 88-85, four years ago; and San Sebastian again, 71-65, six seasons back. The Knights, in contrast, are gunning to finish No. 1 for the first time since accomplishing the feat 10 years ago, the same year they won their last championship by beating former member Philippine Christian University. Businessworld


A man of few words, DLSU head coach Juno Sauler quipped that, “They made tough shots but we couldn’t shoot, couldn’t score in the end.” With 1:37 to go in the game and with UST only holding a two-point lead, 75-73, La Salle leading scorer Jeron Teng committed a costly turnover that led to a Louis Vigil layup, giving the Growling Tigers enough cushion to seal the game. Thomas Torres and Teng missed three-pointers soon after. For Sauler, the pass Teng made was part of the game plan as his team struggled to penetrate the paint. “He could drive but UST was protecting the paint. That’s the only shot that was available but we couldn’t make it,” he reflected. “Last game, Josh [Torralba] was able to make it, this game we can’t. That’s basketball.” Tiebreakertimes


Head coach Aldin Ayo lauded Nambatac for his heroics, saying the wing man had an unmatched desire to play. “Yung bata, kita mo talaga yung puso. He has to face his fears, takot pala sa karayom yun e. Gusto niya lang talaga gumaling kahit gaano kasakit. Sabi niya sakin gusto niya maglaro,” Ayo said. “Kaya noong natamaan ulit siya, pinuntahan ko siya kasi alam ko kung gaano kasakit yun. Noong halftime tinanong ko siya, pwede naman siya magsit-out pero sabi niya coach, maglalaro ako.” Tiebreakertimes


Commissioner Chito Narvasa said the department will be in-charge of arbitrating disputes between players and teams such as the recent contract saga concerning wingman Alex Nuyles and Mahindra. Both parties came to an agreement last week when team management honored the contract extension Nuyles signed with the Enforcers after the former Adamson player initially thought Mahindra was reneging on the deal that would have him suiting up for the franchise in the coming 41st season of the league. “We want to have a procedure here, to have a process. I told all of the teams during the time when we visited them (in the preseason) about the need to have a Players Affairs Office,” said Narvasa. “Para any problems of the players, punta ka run. Ganito na ang susundan nila. So may procedure na, may process, at may time element.”


HIS best offensive game of the preseason already speaks volumes, yet James Yap insists he’s still in the process of adjusting to Star coach Jason Webb’s system that will allow him to a revert to a familiar style of play. “Ngayon naga-adjust pa rin ako, although ‘yun ‘yung laro ko before,” said the Hotshots gunner, who scored 17 points in their last tune-up game in the preseason, against San Miguel Beer on Saturday. “Kailangan pa rin i-practice kasi ilang years rin ako nag-triangle (offense) eh.” “Sana bumalik ‘yung komportable ako,” added Yap, who averaged 14.7 points in three exhibition matches.


To ensure the availability of the best players for future national teams and avoid constant conflicts, the four-time PBA MVP said the pro league should adjust its season schedule to the tournaments of Fiba where Gilas Pilipinas is set to take part. “I think the PBA has to adjust its schedule in line with the tournaments of Fiba,” said Fernandez, who was also the founding commissioner of the MBA. “It won’t hurt them much, Fiba schedules are known at least two or four years in advance. “The PBA is a commercial league with the main objective of advertising the company’s products. They can play year long but have breaks if there is a Fiba tournament in a given year,” he added.


NLEX and Barako Bull had at least one good stretch last season, but still were unable to do enough to contend against the league’s big boys. They both want to put themselves in a position wherein they can be more of a threat to the perennial contenders this coming season. With a year of experience in the league under its belt, the NLEX Road Warriors are eyeing a better season and for head coach Boyet Fernandez, it’s about consistently getting in the playoffs and being a dangerous team in there. “We’ve learned a lot in our first season and now, we want to be better overall and make the playoffs and do our best from there,’’ said Fernandez, who attended several coaching seminars in the United States early in the off-season. ManilaStandard