THE exciting pair of Mark Caguioa and Jay-jay Helterbrand may still be the faces of the Ginebra San Miguel franchise, but two Fil-American rookies in Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen represent the latest pieces in an ongoing facelift for the pro league's most popular ballclub.
“We’re getting a lot more young guys to try and fit into our system," coach Siot Tanquingcen told Spin.ph at the end of the Gin Kings' first official practice of the season on Tuesday at the Xavier School gym in San Juan.
"As we start practice, we’re also trying to get these guys through our offseason program, which is the foundation of our preparation. We don’t just want to throw them into scrimmages without making sure they all have proper conditioning, otherwise, magkaka-injury lang yung iba sa kanila.”
Ellis and Jensen are just the latest additions to a team that has welcomed former Smart Gilas regular Dylan Ababou, former D-League standout Allen Maliksi, longtime Purefoods star Kerby Raymundo and former PBA Rookie of the Year Rico Maierhofer at different stages of the past season.
The adjustments each of the new players had to go through had messed up the team's chemistry -- the reason Tanquingcen is happy to have his new players on board right from the get-go.
“As we assessed things, several of our players like Dylan, Allein, Kerby and Rico didn’t really join our preseason practices, which is why they didn’t have the time to adjust. Kerby came to our team during the second conference, but it was only the following conference that he somehow got into our system," said Tanquingcen.
“So ngayong nakaka-build up na kami, we are basically trying to get everyone back to our system of playing on offense and defense. We want everyone to be on the same page.”
However, Tanquingcen was the first to point out that the Kings' mission to end a four-year drought won't be easy, considering sister team Petron has undergone a massive buildup while traditional PBA powers San Mig Coffee (formerly B-Meg) and Talk 'N Text remain formidable.
Still, the soft-spoken Ginebra mentor is confident youngsters Ellis and Jensen will give the Kings a fresh boost with their athleticism and energy on the floor.
“Both Chris and Keith are energy-type players. That’s what they can bring to the team. They can rebound and score from the outside,” added Tanquingcen.
But the facelift doesn't mean veterans like Eric Menk no longer have a place in the team. Tanquingcen confirmed that management has already prepared an offer for the the 38-year-old former league MVP who he hopes would join the Gin Kings for another season.