GEE Abanilla makes his Petron coaching debut as the Boosters hope the latest coaching change would make a difference in the PBA Governors Cup starting with their opening match against the Meralco Bolts on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Abanilla, head coach at La Salle in the UAAP last season, took over from Olsen Racela and the Boosters have high hopes they could move on from a turbulent season and start piling up the wins.
Racela was moved to San Mig Coffee as one of Tim Cone’s assistants after a series of personnel changes during a busy break in between conferences for the San Miguel Corp. group.
The Boosters and the Bolts tangle at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m excited. We’ve got a versatile line up. Now it’s just a matter of blending the talent we have,” said Abanilla, referring to the roster that had late changes last week when the team acquired Doug Kramer and shipped Dorian Pena to Barako Bull.
Rookie center June Mar Fajardo, a backup big man for the Fiba Asia runner-up Gilas Pilipinas, will suit up right away for the Boosters and team up with explosive import Elijah Millsap.
On the other hand, Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio remains optimistic of his team’s chances this conference even though the Bolts are again entering a conference with several new names in the roster.
Meralco, reinforced by comebacking Mario West, acquired shooter John Wilson and former PBA top rookie pick Noy Bacalo in a trade with Air21 last month, releasing center Carlo Sharma and rookie forward Vic Manuel.
“John will play a major role on both ends of the floor,” explained Gregorio. “With Macmac (Cardona) sidelined for at least three weeks due to a calf strain, John will get the minutes that he deserves.”
Gregorio said he’s well aware that they’ll be going up against a talented Petron squad, which boasts of one of the deepest bench in the 10-team PBA field. Yet, he’s hopeful that the Bolts can also rely on the defensive presence Baclao can provide for the team.
“Noy solidifies our frontcourt rotation. His natural defensive instincts will be critical for us as we are focused on being one of the top defensive teams in the league,” he added.