THERE are some key players who Kia intends to keep, after all.
Mark Yee came to the defense of a Picanto team that has been hounded by controversy ever since the Picanto gave up their core last year and let go of the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s PBA rookie draft.
Now the only remnant of the original Kia team that came in the last expansion in 2014, the veteran forward is grateful to the team for reviving a career that a few felt would last this long.
“Kung wala ‘tong Kia, wala rin kami,” Yee said in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Wednesday. “Sobrang pasasalamat rin kami sa Kia na nabuhay career namin.
“Sino ba naman mag-aakala na tatagal ako ng ganito sa PBA?” added the 35-year-old cager, who is entering his fourth year with the franchise and 10th in the league after going undrafted in 2008.
“Sa buong career ko, dito pinakamalaking sweldo ko,” the San Sebastian Cavite product continued.
For a team whose commitment to winning has come under question from critics, Kia has sure taken care of its longest-tenured player.
Yee, whose current contract runs until August, said he is among a host of players, along with LA Revilla, Alex Mallari, and Aldrech Ramos, as well as coach Chris Gavina, who drove BMW sedans the team issued for six months when Kia had a tie-up with the German luxury car brand.
And Yee, their team skipper last year, is eager to continue repaying his team by again being their leader this season, vying for the captaincy with veteran recruits Ronald Tubid, Jay-R Reyes, and Dylan Ababou.
“Wala namang problema kung ma-captain ball o hindi, basta lagi ko lang nagagabayan ang mga bata,” Yee said.
Yee also stuck to the positives of the trade that sent the No. 1 pick that turned out to be Christian Standhardinger to San Miguel Beer in exchange for Tubid, Reyes, Rashawn McCarthy, and a future pick.
“Yung sa trade na yun, hindi namin hawak yun eh,” Yee said. “Kami, nandito lang para maglaro talaga. Bahala na sila boss Joe (Lipa) dun tsaka mga coaching staff.”
“Kahit sino nandito, basta trabaho lang kami, kasi kahit sinong player nandito, kung hindi kami magtutulungan, wala ring mangyayari,” he added.
While he acknowledged the talent of Standhardinger, Yee welcomed the veteran leadership of Tubid and Reyes as well as McCarthy.
“Hindi naman kaya ng isang player lahat,” Yee said. “Sobrang laking tulong pa rin, kasi yung tatlong player na ‘to, talagang makakatulong din sa team, hindi lang sa scoring, kundi pati sa depensa tsaka yung experience nila sa San Miguel na ilang championship din nakuha nila.”
And with the addition of Ababou, Yee is confident the Picanto can simply improve from its winless campaign in the last Governors’ Cup.
“Sa lineup namin, maayos naman,” Yee said. “Talagang go hard lang talaga kami, kasi hindi naman natin ma-ano na malakas yung ibang teams, pero kami, sa pinapagawa sa amin ng coaches, sa tingin ko may mararating naman.”
“Kailangan namin patunayan sa mga tao na mali yung iniisip nila, na kaya namin makipag-sabayan at tsaka ang goal talaga namin ay makapasok sa quarters,” he added. “Lahat kami magtutulungan, kumbaga walang maghihilahan pababa. Nandun kami lahat, magtutulungan para sa ikabubuti ng team.”