DON'T let Petron's 0-2 (win-loss) record in the preseason deceive you.
As bad as the Boosters look so far, coaches agree that Petron will be the yardstick in the pro league once it gets past the getting-to-know-you phase and starts getting its act together.
Notwithstanding victories by their teams against Petron the past week, Alaska coach Luigi Trillo and Rain or Shine's Yeng Guiao believe the flagship team of the San Miguel Corp. group will be the team to beat in the coming season once the players become comfortable under new coach Olsen Racela.
“Olsen is new and I think what he’s doing during this preseason has a lot to do with trial and error. In fact, it’s possible that Petron loses all its preseason games, but then win the games that matter most when the season comes,” said Trillo after the Aces' 90-84 win over Petron.
Guiao's reason for picking Petron is simple: It's a case of the strong becoming stronger.
“Last season, malakas na nga sila eh, ngayon lalo na when they got June Mar (Fajardo) and Alex Mallari. How can you match up with their size?" said Guiao after the Painters beat the Boosters, 103-98.
The mere sight of his overfed but undersized centers Beau Belga and JR Quinahan going up against the the 6-9 Fajardo and the rest of the Boosters' frontline emphasized the obvious for Guiao: "I think we have one of the smallest lineups in the league right now," he said.
According to Trillo, depth is one thing not only Petron but the two other teams under the SMC umbrella have. “Petron’s got the deepest line up in the league right now, followed by B-Meg (now San Mig Coffee) and Ginebra,” he said.
Even the man who oversaw Petron's buildup, Noli Eala, is the least bit bothered by the two losses, convinced that it will only be a matter of time before the Boosters show their true championship form.
“Everyone’s obviously adjusting to the new system under coach Olsen (Racela), “ SMC's director for sports told Spin.ph. “The leadership is now getting clearer with Olsen and Rajko (Toroman) working together.”
Eala said Racela is still getting his feet following his last tour of duty with the RP Youth Under-18 team while the players, especially the new ones, are making their own adjustments to Racela's system.
“The team obviously has a lot of things to work on. Their defense primarily is something they need to work on. Plus June Mar is obviously unfamiliar with the PBA brand of play. He’s been coming off the bench playing in the ABL (Asean Basketball League), and suddenly, he’s playing a lot of minutes in the preseason,” explained Eala.
While Toroman has been tasked to instill discipline in a talent-laden team like Petron, at the end of the day, Eala said someone among the platoon of Boosters stars must step up and take the mantle of leadership.
Racela has long been the leader of the team prior to his retirement last year. Eala said he now expects Danny Ildefonso, Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot to pick up the leadership cudgels as the Boosters hope to revive their winning ways.