THE gap to be left behind by import Eugene Phelps is one big hole Phoenix has to fill in for its Philippine Cup campaign in the coming new season of the PBA.
Coach Ariel Vanguardia disclosed the team will be in need of a big man, who can give them an inside threat much like what Phelps did for the Fuel Masters in the Governors Cup.
With Phelps showing the way, the team made the quarterfinals of the season-ending meet only to be bundle out by top seed TNT Katropa in the first round of the playoffs.
The search for a Phelps prototype also signals what Vanguardia hinted would be a move to revamp the former Barako Bull franchise for next season.
“We had six victories this conference kasi nga may Eugene Phelps. So it’s a big hole sa All-Filipino,” said Vanguardia as he ponders on the Fuel Masters’ campaign in the final conference of the year that came to an end Saturday night following the team’s ouster at the hands of the Texters, 136-124, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
“We hope to build from this. Definitely, we’ll make lineup changes. I told the boys na huwag silang magulat kung may trades na mangyari (before the draft). Given naman yun e.”
The move to improve the roster is necessary according to Vanguardia, especially if Phoenix is to get past the traditional powers in the league.
“We tried, but we just couldn’t handle the elite teams,” he said, especially mentioning the double-digit losses of the franchise to teams such as Alaska, Ginebra, San Miguel, and TNT Katropa.
Vanguardia, who only took the coaching chore from Koy Banal at the start of the Governors Cup, stressed the Fuel Masters are going to keep a core to which they could build the team.
Aside from a big man, the Phoenix coach mentioned the need for another veteran point guard to complement Josh Urbiztondo and another banger inside.
“Kasi yung mga bigs namin sa labas ang laro,” he said, pointing to the likes of veteran Mick Pennisi, rookie Norbert Torres, Prince Caperal, and Mike Miranda.
Still, Vanguardia is proud of what the team achieved despite the little time they’ve been together.
“Ganun talaga, bago pa lang. Nagtu-tuition pa lang yung team,” he said. “At least little steps and nakapasok kami sa quarterfinals kahit last bus.”
The team will meet on Monday in a final get-together for the season.