FROM the outside looking in, Chot Reyes pointed to one guy who he said will make the difference in San Miguel Beer’s semifinal clash against TnT Katropa in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Not three-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo or the trio of Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, and Alex Cabagnot. Rather its defensive whiz Chris Ross who Reyes singled out as the X-factor for the Beermen in previous campaigns and in the coming playoffs.
And the Gilas Pilipinas expects the same from the Finals MVP of last season’s all-Filipino conference once the two fierce rivals - both in sports and business – begin their best-of-seven series on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Ang problema naman hindi lang si June Mar, kundi si Chris Ross e. Hindi si Cabagnot o si Arwind, si Chris Ross,” Reyes pointed out on Monday night as he waited for team owner Manny Pangilinan to emerge from the TnT dugout following the Texters’ 95-90 win over Globalport that sealed the Final Four showdown with the Beermen.
While Fajardo remains very much a threat inside, and the clutch outside shooting of Lassiter and Cabagnot are a concern, the coach who steered TNT to four championships in the past, three of them coming in the all-Filipino conference, is convinced Ross is the player that makes San Miguel the great team that it is.
“Ang dami niyang ginagawa,” said the only five-time winner of the PBA Press Corps’ Baby Dalupan Coach of the Year award. “Unang-una, siya ang bumabantay kay Jayson (Castro). Eh hirap si Jayson kay Chris Ross.”
“And he does all of the little things for San Miguel. He hustles, he rebounds, he dishes off,” Reyes enumerated one by one.
When mentioned the 31-year-old native of San Antonio, Texas could also shoot the lights out on a good night, the national team coach could only nod his head in agreement.
“Mas malaking problema pa yun (sa amin), if he started making his shots,” said Reyes, recalling how Ross’ outside shooting helped turn around the decisive Game Seven of San Miguel’s amazing comeback in the finals of the Philippine Cup last season against Alaska.
Ross did produce significant numbers as part of San Miguel’s starting unit in the only meeting between the two teams this conference during the eliminations.
The three-time champion and the PBA Press Corps Defensive Player of the Year for 2016 had nine points (4 of 7 shooting), nine assists, and two rebounds as the Beermen barely escaped the Texters’ last-ditch stand, 98-94, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
In all, he played for 37 minutes, the most for any of the Beermen outside of Fajardo.
“Kaya sa akin talaga, si Chris Ross ang problema,” said Reyes.