A NEW wave of TNT players is out to regain the franchise’s status as a champion in the PBA, and out of the current batch, and one of the two players who have been through the high and low times of the Tropang GIGA is Kelly Williams.
Along with Jayson Castro, Williams was part of TNT’s successful run during the 2010s where he captured four titles following his move from Sta. Lucia. The former PBA MVP was also with the Tropang GIGA during the lean years after their last championship in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
Past and present TNT teams compared
It has been a long wait for TNT to win another title in the PBA, and Williams admitted that the long search has something to do with the absence of one player who was key in all those championships.
“I think the elephant that left the room for us the last six years or several years was having a player and a leader like Jimmy Alapag,” said Williams. “I think that was a huge adjustment. Obviously, with coach Chot stepping down, the whole organization had to revamp and I think that was the transition over the years has been a tough one. That’s just my personal (opinion) for me being there over the years, going to championship teams to how it has been for the last six years.”
Drafted 10th overall in the 2003 draft, Alapag was the rock of TNT, winning six championships including the three straight Philippine Cup crowns the ballclub won from 2011 to 2013, before he was traded to Meralco in 2015. TNT though has only won the championship once, and finished runners-up three times since Alapag moved to Meralco.
But hope is high with this year’s Tropang GIGA squad after advancing to the finals of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup. TNT reached the finals after a 10-1 record in the eliminations, and beat Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel in the playoffs along the way.
A big reason for that, Williams said, is the return of Reyes, who came back to TNT after eight years. Williams said Reyes brought along with him the same kind of coaching style and culture he wants to impart to the team during his first stint with TNT.
“But with having coach Chot back and (it) kinda bring back the culture and the atmosphere that have allowed us to win in the past,” said Williams, who came out of a brief retirement following the return of Reyes. “It has been a progression. I think it just been what we’ve been looking for especially in this drought since the last championship.”
Williams said the personalities in the current team from the past teams are the same, and it is not coincidence that Reyes is the coach of both editions of TNT.
“As far as similarities, we have a bunch of guys who are willing to do what it takes for the sake of the team. And that’s a big similarity to the champion teams that I’ve been on, and I believe it’s by design. It’s just how coach Chot has put his teams together.”
For his part, Reyes said one thing that is similar to this edition of TNT to the past is the leaders, although they are different in terms of personalities. Aside from Alapag, Ranidel De Ocampo was the veteran of the past TNT teams.
The responsibilities have now been passed on to Williams and Castro.
“First of all, you take a look at the leadership, the personality of our leaders in the past, Jimmy and Ranidel are different from the personalities of the leaders of today which is Jayson and Kelly, but the values remain the same.
“Values of sacrifice, hardwork, playing together as a team, and I think ganun naman talaga in every worthwhile endeavor. There are different ways of doing things but the important this is the values and the things that are most important remains consistent.”
“We cannot expect Jayson to be like Jimmy. You can’t expect Kelly to be like Ranidel. Even Troy (Rosario), very early in the season, you guys asked me, will Troy fill in the shoes of Ranidel, and I said, for me, we don’t need the next Ranidel. We need the first Troy Rosario. That’s that difference. We have different people and different personalities.
Williams hopes that the return of Reyes would translate into TNT finally winning a championship and end that title drought.
“Now being back in the finals, it’s been proven what you can do if you sacrifice for each other,” said Williams.