Cone hopes freshman Mallari can be a Norwood-type of player for Mixers
San Mig coach Tim Cone says rookie Alex Mallari, inset, can be a back-up to starting guard Mark Barroca or the two may end up playing together to form a fresher backcourt. Jerome Ascano

Rookie guard Alex Mallari’s arrival at San Mig Coffee brings a lot of upside to the team’s backcourt as far as Mixers coach Tim Cone is concerned.

“Alex is a big plus for us because he can play the point guard spot, just like what Gabe Norwood does for Rain or Shine," Cone told Spin.ph shortly after a five-team, 10-player trade that brought freshmen Mallari and Lester Alvarez as well as veteran forward Leo Najorda to San Mig was approved by Commissioner Chito Salud.

"And he can either play as a backup for Mark Barroca or he can play with him at the guard spot,” Cone added.

San Mig has resumed practice for its title defense in the Commissioner's Cup, and a disappointing 2-4 semifinal series loss to Rain or Shine in the PBA Philippine Cup early this month may have prompted Cone and management to for new pieces to build on.

To get their hands on the three players as well as a first-round pick in the 2014 draft, the Mixers had to give up guard Jonas Villanueva, forward JC Intal, and rookie forward Aldrech Ramos.

“We really like Aldrech, he’s really a great player. A perfect stretch four for defense, though we really want Alex Mallari. Alex is something that we need at the moment," Cone said.

“We also felt Leo Najorda can bring some toughness to our lineup because some say we’re a bit soft. It’s something we need to address. At the same time, we have a sustainable future with the draft pick we got."

Come the Commissioner’s Cup, which kicks off on February 8, Cone said they now have a younger backcourt led by sophomore playmaker Mark Barroca, who will be supported by Mallari. Alvarez serves as the third-string guard who Cone said can push Barroca to excel further in practice.

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