RICO Maierhofer played his best game in a Barako Bull uniform in a 99-86 rout of Meralco Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The lanky former De La Salle stalwart finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of action, his most productive output since the Energy acquired him in an offseason trade with Barangay Ginebra.
The 13-point blowout allowed the Energy to snap out of a six-game losing skid in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup as they improved to a 3-6 (win-loss) slate in a tie with the Bolts.
And Maierhofer’s best outing in a long while certainly contributed to Barako Bull’s cause.
“Magandang pamasko ito. Buti na lang nanalo,” he said. "Depensa lang naman ako, so `yung opensa sa akin bonus na lang.”
The Barako Bull big man was also quick to downplay suggestions he played inspired to prove something against his former coach Ryan Gregorio, the same man who picked him No. 2 overall during the 2009 Rookie Draft with Purefoods (now San Mig Coffee).
He said everything was all but coincidental.
“Wala naman,” he disclosed to Spin.ph. “Si coach Ryan, siya `yung first coach ko as a pro, siya `yung nagbigay sa akin ng motivation to do things to become a better person. So si coach Ryan, I know, happy siya for me.”
“Andun pa rin `yung mutual admiration namin as player and coach.”
The former Rookie of the Year admitted his tenure with Purefoods, and later with Ginebra, is something he wouldn’t forget.
“For me kasi, `yung team I consider as my second family, from management, to the players, and even the ballboys, they’re part of my second family,” said the 6-foot-6 Maierhofer, who is slowly regaining his old form after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear, an injury that hampered his stay with the Kings
“First family ko `yung Purefoods, and then I got traded (sa Ginebra)so another family na naman yun. They’re my past families kaya may attachment pa rin.”
But now, Barako Bull is what he calls home, where Maierhofer admitted he has no trouble fitting in.
“First day of practice, nag–settle na ako, warm welcome naman sila sa akin after ma-trade ako from Ginebra to Barako Bull,” he said. “Lahat naman sila kilala ko na, at tsaka ako naman `yung type ng person na madaling mag-adopt.”
Maierhofer added he appreciates how coach Bong Ramos and Barako Bull management have gradually got him back into the groove by not hurrying his return from injury.
“Gradually, I’m going there. Naka-focus naman sa akin `yung PT (physical therapist) ko, making it as in gradual. Like in my first game 10 minutes, second game 15 minutes, and now umabot ako ng 20 minutes, so ok ako dun,” he said.
No wonder, he has easily become at home with the Energy.
“Ngayon may present family is Barako and this is the family that I will protect” Maierhofer stressed.