COACH Junel Baculi apparently isn’t bent on making huge changes in his system even as Barako Bull languishes in the bottom half of the standings halfway through the eliminations of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Instead, the veteran coach is hoping that a change in the players' mind-sets will inject new life to the team’s roller-coaster ride in the season-opening tournament.
Top guard Josh Urbiztondo said the Energy Cola recently had a heart-to-heart talk with Baculi, who wants the team to realize they can do much better.
“We had a really long talk after the Meralco game. And pretty much we’ve talked about not getting discouraged. Coach was emphasizing how we need to stay together, dig deep, want to get better, and be humble," said the Fresno Pacific College alumnus.
“You know we have a lot of new faces, we’re jelling but like we said, we need to get our confidence back. Of course, our win (against Globalport) was not the best win, but a win is a win, we’ll take it.”
Urbiztondo, the four-year veteran playmaker, was acquired by Barako during the offseason from San Mig Coffee in a bid to boost its weak point guard position.
So far, the 6-foot-1 guard out of San Mateo, California has responded well with career averages of 12.12 points, 5.12 assists, and 1.25 steals in the team’s first eight games this season.
“He (Baculi) told me when I first came in that he expects me to be the leader of this team because of the championship experience I had (with San Mig Coffee). He wants me to bring that in," he said.
“But he also told me that other teams are preparing for me. They have been coming up with a game plan which I have to adjust to.”
But with a 3-5 record halfway through the elimination round, Baculi feels the Energy Cola are not playing to their potential.
“On the team aspect, we just need to get our winning edge. We just came from close games, a controversial call and recently, came flat out versus Meralco. So now, we’re just focusing to get one win at a time,” he added.
Prior to the Energy Cola’s tight 95-94 grind-out victory over hard luck Globalport on Sunday, Barako Bull had gone on a downward spin, losing its last three assignments against Talk ’N Text (76-79), San Mig Coffee (91-92), and Meralco (86-99).
The Energy Cola lost a key player during the offseason in Willie Miller, whom they traded away to Globalport in order to get veteran center Enrico Villanueva.
The 6-foot-5 Villanueva has been having a resurgence with career-best averages in minutes (32.75), points (14.25 ppg.), rebounds (9.75 rpg.), and assists 2.88 (apg.).
“We had two good games, close games before our Meralco game. Sabi niya (Baculi), we need to learn from those games. Huwag lang naming hayaang masayang effort namin. Bawat player lang talaga need to be responsible sa paghawak ng bola. To give sure passes. Importante, walang pilitan para maganda ang flow ng offense,” said the former Ateneo star.