THE streaking San Miguel Beermen welcomes back star guard Chris Banchero in time for the opener of their Asean Basketball League semifinals series against Sports Rev Thailand Slammers on Thursday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The Beermen enter their 8 p.m. showdown with the Slammers eyeing their 17th straight win, and their cause will definitely be boosted by the comebacking Banchero, who missed the team’s last five games in the eliminations due to a torn tendon in his left quadriceps.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria confirmed Banchero has been given clearance by team doctors Monday of last week, but preferred to rest the MVP candidate in time for the best-of-five semis.
“We actually got the go signal from Chris’ doctor even before the game against Malaysia,” said Austria. “I just wanted to rest him a little more so he will be ready for the playoffs.”
Austria, however, will not be in a hurry to give Banchero heavy minutes during Game One.
“It’s like he never left and he never had an injury. He is moving well. But I plan to use him off the bench and for a few minutes at first to give him a feel of the game. He might just get too eager so I need to set the right timing for him,” Austria said.
Aside from his usual contribution on offense, Banchero is also expected to assume the role of defending Slammers’ top point guard and former San Miguel teammate Froilan Baguion.
“We will most likely use Chris as a two-guard so as to speed up the game and match what Thailand usually does with (Froilan) Baguion and another guard,” Austria said.
Banchero’s return came after RJ Rizada sustained an MCL injury in his right knee which he suffered in the team’s triple overtime win against Malaysia Friday last week.
The Beermen ended the eliminations with a 19-3 (win-loss) slate highlighted by a 16-game winning streak to grab homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Slammers earned the right to face the Beermen after finishing fourth in the regular season with an 8-14 record.
Aside from Baguion, Thailand will also be relying on import Chris Charles, who tallied 53 points and 29 rebounds in their final two meetings against the Beermen.