PART of the dominant San Miguel Beer teams in the early 2000, Alaska hero Dondon Hontiveros has expressed excitement at meeting his old squad in the coming Philippine Cup Finals.
Though he insisted he harbors no ill feelings toward a team that traded him away after helping lead it to championships in the 2005 and 2009 Fiesta Conference, Hontiveros said he is looking forward to the new breed of Beermen under the glare of the Finals spotlight.
"Sumama rin loob ko nun kasi sobrang dami kong kaibigan sa team na 'yun. Pero wala na 'yun. Nalungkot lang ako," Hontiveros told Spin.ph shortly after playing the hero's role in Alaska's series-clinching 79-76 win over Rain or Shine in their semifinal playoff on Sunday night.
"Pero excited ako na makalaban sila kasi big stage ito para sa akin. Makakatapat ko ang new batch ng players nila," he added.
Hontiveros, who has struggled with an ankle sprain and a foot injury in the playoffs. bared that he expects San Miguel to be a tough match-up for them as the Leo Austria-steered squad is teeming with talent.
The 37-year-old former University of Cebu stalwart even mentioned Beermen star Marcio Lassiter as a better and more versatile version of him from among the guards of the 2014 San Miguel squad.
"Tingin ko si Marcio talaga ang nag-take ng pwesto ko run. Kaso mas magaling siya eh. Mas athletic, mas mabilis na Dondon Hontiveros si Marcio, even lahat ng guards nila dun mahuhusay," he said.
After finding his touch at the crucial juncture for Alaska just when Rain or Shine was threatening to extend their semifinal series, Hontiveros can only hope to show the same intensity and form against San Miguel.
"Sana maipagpatuloy ko 'yung kumpiyansa ko dahil against San Miguel, kailangan namin talaga na magtulong tulong. Ngayong game kasi na timingan ko yung rhythm ko," he said.
"Against San Miguel, if makuha ko ulit yung rhythm ko, I would do the same," he said with a smile.
Alaska coach Alex Compton said he is not worried that his top gunner will carry any emotional baggage into the finals against his former team.
"I know Dondon. He's professional enough. He can handle himself. I don't have to hold him," said Compton.
Hontiveros refused to comment when asked if a championship won at the expense of SMB will be a lot sweeter, saying he'd rather focus on whatever role Alaska coach Alex Compton will give him.
"Ayaw ko na sagutin yan. Basta excited lang ako," he said laughing, adding he is looking forward to meeting fellow University of Cebu alumnus June Mar Fajardo in the finals.
At the peak of his career, Hontiveros was traded by San Miguel to Air21 alongside fellow Beermen star Danny Seigle and Dorian Pena in March 2011 for then rookie top picks Noy Baclao, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Rey Guevarra.
But for Hontiveros, he'd rather savor his fourth all-Filipino finals appearance than dwell on the past.
"Wala na 'yun. New chapter na to ng buhay ko, bagong kabanata na rin sa kanila. We'll write a different present together," said Hontiveros, who is still well loved by solid San Miguel fans.