THE recent skills training Alaska's young turks had undergone with renowned American coach Ganon Baker should help boost the players' confidence as the Aces hope to finally end a string of runner-up frustrations in the coming PBA Governors Cup.
The young core of the Aces such as Chris Banchero, Kevin Racal, Rome dela Rosa, RJ Jazul, among others, went through a week-long camp with the 43-year-old Baker shortly after the Commissioner's Cup to improve their basketball skills even more.
Injured Aces like Vic Manuel and JVee Casio were also present everyday at the Hoops Center gym for the training sessions, although they didn't particpate in the various drills the Aces did under Baker.
Owing to his Gilas Pilipinas duties, star forward Calvin Abueva was exempted from attending the camp, which didn't come cheap.
"Basketball is a continuous process of learning. Akala mo alam mo na lahat sa basketball, pero nung nag-attend kami ng training camp ni coach Ganon, ang dami naming natutunan pa," said senior Alaska deputy coach Louie Alas on Saturday.
"Magandang experience ito para sa mga players. Kami mismong mga coaches ang daming inputs na napag-aralan. Magaling talaga siya (Baker)," he added.
An elite basketball trainer, motivational speaker, and skills coach, Baker is the man behind previous Nike basketball camps around the world, including the highly-successful Nike Skills Academy.
He played college basketball at Duquesne University and later on, at UNC Wilmington.
As an 18-year-old, he worked as counselor with Five-Star Basketball Camp, one of the top cage camps in the US featuring the top American junior high school players
Baker made his first Philippine visit recently and conducted various camps in Manila. He did separate clinics for the Aces, National University Bulldogs, and the La Salle Green Archers.
Although he wasn't part of the Alaska camp, veteran Dondon Hontiveros impressed Baker during the time he was able to watch him play in the Commissioner's Cup finals between the Aces and eventual champion the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
"He impressed me despite his age," said Baker of Hontiveros, who also dilligently attended the Aces' training camp as an observer.
"Actually all of them impressed me. They all wanna learn, they all wanna get better, they're all receptive to the coaches here. Coaches here do a great program and it reminds me of college programs. It's about love, caring, concern for them as people as well and not just a business," he added.
But the endgoal for the Aces after this training is to finally win the season-ending championship after being runner-up four times in the last five conferences.
"Hopefully, this conference," said Alas, who's keeping tab of Alaska's daily practices in the absence of head coach Alex Compton, currently with the entire Gilas Pilipinas team in a three-week training camp in Europe heading to the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
"Makabutas lang kami ng isa, who knows what will happen," he added. "We'll see."