WITH an intact core back to defend its Commissioner’s Cup title this season, Alaska coach Luigi Trillo believes the Aces are moving in the right direction after clinching the 2014 Cebu City Charter Day Cup Invitational basketball championship on Sunday.
The Aces scored a three-game sweep of the pocket tournament in Cebu over the weekend, beating Globalport (87-79), Talk ’N Text (79-70) and the Misamis Oriental-based Tagoloan Tigers (96-86).
“It is nice to do that (sweep the pocket tournament) because we’re trying to build from within,” Trillo told Spin.ph on Wednesday. “You learn and grow together. I’m happy because the guys are getting in the groove again.”
The youthful Trillo said chemistry remains a priority for an Alaska squad that has opened this season with a few rookie additions.
Although there were persistent rumors that Alaska’s flamboyant forward Calvin Abueva is on the trading block, Trillo maintains his stance that chemistry is important for the Aces’ title-retention bid.
“For us, this is the same group we had from last year. I think chemistry is something that’s important,” he said.
San Miguel Beer (formerly Petron), Globalport, Barako Bull, Air21 and Talk ’N Text have bolstered their rosters through trades recently, but Trillo feels his second unit only needs to step up to sustain the intensity of his core led by center Sonny Thoss, Cyrus Baguio, Abueva, Gabby Espinas and JV Casio.
“If you look at the depth of some other teams, they really got stronger. They’ve done things through trades. But I feel good because the guys are coming out of their shell,” explained Trillo, who won his first PBA championship as a coach during last season’s Commissioner’s Cup.
With last season’s Robert Dozier also returning for another tour of duty, Trillo said they can work toward piling up the wins early since the tournament format features a short elimination phase where teams will play just nine games each.
“This week is about getting ready because we’re set to play five games in the next two weeks (of the tournament),” said the Alaska mentor. “And it’s a good thing that (import) Robert Dozier is easy to get along with because he’s low maintenance."
The 6-foot-8 Dozier, last season’s Commissioner’s Cup Best Import awardee, hardly showed rust from a 10-month layoff, averaging 18.3 points in the Cebu pocket tournament.
Alaska opens its title-retention bid against Talk ’N Text when the Commissioner’s Cup opens on March 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.