Leo Austria expects SMB new boys Brian Heruela, Ryan Araña compete for starting spots
Brian Heruela has made quite an impression in his first few weeks at SMB. Karlo Sacamos

SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria is so impressed with the current play of Brian Heruela and Ryan Araña that the team's new acquisitions have a chance to crack the starting lineup right away.

Heruela and Araña registered 12 and eight points, respectively, in the Beermen’s tune-up game against Alaska on Wednesday.

“They’re trying to prove something,” Austria said of the duo. “Makikita mo all-out sila.”

“It’s a good thing na nakita yun ng mga teammates nila dahil hindi sila pwedeng magpabaya at mag-relax dahil baka i-earn nila yung slot na nilalaro nila,” he added with a smile.

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Heruela, the former Blackwater star point guard who led the league in assists last season, insists he’s content with being a reliever to main playmakers Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross.

“My role is to give quality minutes,” Heruela said in a short chat with Spin.ph. “I’m just looking forward to back up Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross. No matter how many minutes (coach is) going to play me, I’m just going to be there.”

“I still have room for improvement,” added the stocky Filipino-American guard, who scored seven of his total output in the fourth quarter to help his team pull away. “Coach Leo has been preparing us well. On my end, I’m just going to keep improving and run the system. So far, I’m learning pretty good and pretty quick.”

Austria believes Heruela and Araña, acquired from Rain or Shine, are ready to start for the defending Philippine Cup champion Beermen, reason why he’s reminding Cabagnot and Ross not to rest on their laurels.

“It’s a healthy competition,” he said. “Pag sumama ang laro mo, may papalit sa’yo. Kailangan nila ay consistency para ma-maintain nila yung slot nila.”

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Cabagnot showed he is still worthy to be the first-choice point guard by tallying a game-high 19 points against the Aces, while Ross added four markers before going out with a minor injury.

Heruela has felt the competition for spots since Day One.

“All the guys here are winners, so you can just feel the energy in the team,” he said. “Even in practice, you can feel it’s a winning team.”

“It’s very contagious,” he added. “It makes you want to push harder.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos