ALMOST a decade after, and close buddies JC Intal and Doug Kramer have found themselves playing for the same team again.
Phoenix's acquisition of the 6-foot-5 Kramer in exchange for veteran big man Mick Pennisi in a one-on-one trade with Globalport has paved the way for the reunion for two players whose friendship dates back to their playing days at Ateneo.
Intal, 32, is thrilled to once again play alongside his bosom buddy anew, bringing back memories of the time they set foot in the pro league about 10 years ago when they ended up being teammates at Air21 as the ballclub’s No. 4 and No. 5 picks in the 2007 Rookie Draft.
“I’m very, very excited, and he feels the same way, too. Tuwang-tuwa siya na napunta siya sa amin,” related the high-flying wingman from Minalin, Pampanga.
But Intal had mixed emotions about the trade as it also meant parting ways with Pennisi, with who he also became close to in the time that they were together at Barako Bull, and later with Phoenix.
But the former Blue Eagles star was a major management decision though, aimed at improving where the Fuel Masters are vulnerable.
“It’s bitter sweet for me, because I’m also close to Mick,” he said. “Of course, Doug is my brother.”
“Kinailangan lang talaga ng ‘bigs’ ng team. Isang big man na magre-rebound, na makatulong sa depensa. I’m not saying na hindi kaya ni Mick yun. Of course, si Mick malaking kawalan sa amin, kasi big man siyang shooter, nakakatulong sa three-point shooting ng team, sa outside shooting ng team
“But Doug can really help us sa rebounding, and of course, yung veteran presence niya andiyan.”
Kramer, 33, is one of the most underrated defensive players in the league, who once set a career-personal best of 23 rebounds for Powerade during Game Three of the 2012 Philippine Cup finals against Talk ‘N Text. By the end of the season, he was named member of the league’s All-Defensive team.
The veteran big man, married to actress-model Cheska Garcia, has yet to formally join the Fuel Masters in their daily practice since the trade was consummated last week. He did attend the franchise’s three-day, team building at Splendido Taal Country Club in Tagaytay, though, which ended on Wednesday.
They were together with Air21 for three seasons, and later for a season with Barangay Ginebra. The last time they teamed up in the league was with Barako Bull, according to Intal, which proved to be short-lived.
“Sandali lang kami nagsama (sa Barako) under coach Rajko Toroman before he got traded to San Miguel,” recalled the former Gilas Pilipinas stalwart.
Unfortunately, the two haven’t won a championship together. They came close to bagging one with Ateneo during the 2006 UAAP men’s basketball finals, but lost to University of Santo Tomas in overtime of sudden-death Game Three.
Intal isn’t promising outright title for Phoenix following his latest reunion with Kramer. But he did vow to help the franchise get better as the PBA gets to unfurl its 42nd season in what hopefully would be his final team-up with his best friend.
“Sabi nga niya (Kramer), hopefully ito na yung last team na magkasama kami,” recalled Intal of his conversation with Kramer moments following the trade. "Sana makatulong kaming dalawa this season. We’re all excited na sana everything will have a positive outcome this season.”