EA REGEN Medical Group owner Dennis Pineda was quick to play down the favorite's tag on his rookie squad after its impressive debut in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
With last conference’s Best Player awardee Ian Sangalang in their fold after a free transfer from NLEX, the Regens beat fellow newcomer Hogs Breath Cafe, 83-58, behind the 23 points of ex-pro Jimbo Aquino. Sangalang added 12 in his debut for the squad.
But Pineda, the former mayor of Lubao town and son of Pampanga governor Lilia, stressed the Regens are still in their infancy stage and it will take some time for the players to get used to each other.
“Ayoko mag-expect. Sinasabi ko, bago pa lang ang team. Kailangan pang mag-gel,” Pineda told Spin.ph.
Sangalang's arrival has given Pineda's rookie squad one of the best frontlines in the league as the former NCAA MVP has teamed up with college rival Raymund Almazan of Letran.
Also in the Regens lineup are former San Sebastian Stags Michael Miranda and Dexter Maiquez, and former Jose Rizal University standout Jeckster Apinan.
Still, Pineda insists the Regens have a long way to go before contending for a title.
“Ngayon pa lang talaga magkakasubukan. Sabi nga namin sa (mga players), hindi ibig sabihin na malalaki kayo, may advantage na tayo,” Pineda said.
“Hindi ko kinakabit sa isip ko ‘yun. Ang dialogue ko sa mga bata, kahit sinasabi nila na malakas sila, huwag, ayoko. Low profile lang tayo, concentrate sa laro, sa play, at sa defense,” Pineda added.
Pineda also thanked NLEX management and the PBA Commissioner's Office for allowing Sangalang's transfer.
“Nagpapasalamat ako, number one, sa PBA dahil sa desisyon na ginawa nila. At least na-realize nila na sa amin talaga gustong maglaro (ni Sangalang),” said Pineda.