All eyes on Jericho Cruz, Maverick Ahanmisi as Rain or Shine starts new era vs TNT KaTropa
Jericho Cruz is expected to play a bigger role now that Rain or Shine is without Paul Lee and newcomer James Yap has yet to reach game shape. Jaime Campos

RAIN or Shine begins life without its longtime coach and two standouts as it opens its PBA Philippine Cup campaign against TNT KaTropa on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Elasto Painters try to cope with the departure of coach Yeng Guiao and stars Paul Lee and JR Quiñahan in the offseason as they start the new season against the Texters at 7 p.m.

While three key personnel left, two veterans arrived in Jay Washington and James Yap, although the latter’s debut and tandem with fellow Negros Occidental sniper Jeff Chan will have to wait as the two-time PBA MVP recovers from minor knee surgery.

“It's a big loss for us, but we also had a big gain with these two new players,” new RoS coach Caloy Garcia said as he assigns more responsibility on the rest of the team, particularly Jericho Cruz and Maverick Ahanmisi.

“They have to step up,” Garcia said. “It's their time to shine and to be given that situation where they can score more without Paul and JR.”

Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga, and Jewel Ponferrada take care of the dirty work down low, while Gabe Norwood delivers on both ends anew. Rookie Mike Tolomia is also expected to get some run to prove his worth.

“It will be the same rotation that you see with coach Yeng,” Garcia said. “I also like using all the players. No holding back, I'm going to use them as much as we can.”

The E-Painters brace for a Texters side that’s also undergoing a coaching transition with Nash Racela taking over from Jong Uichico, although assistants Josh Reyes and Bong Ravena are initially calling the shots with the new coach still handling Far Eastern University’s UAAP Final Four campaign.

Blackwater and Phoenix, parading standout rookies, face off in the curtain-raiser at 4:15 p.m.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos