MAHINDRA coach Chris Gavina believes their top two picks in the rookie draft along with the rest of their new additions will be enough to make up for the departure of their star players to trades.
Stretch big men Russel Esocoto and Joseph Eriobu are being counted upon to fill the void left by Aldrech Ramos, Nino Canaleta, Paolo Taha, Bradwyn Guinto, and Keith Agovida - all either traded or let go in a series of puzzling moves by Mahindra management.
“Russel has really shown a lot these past few days,” Gavina said of the Gilas cadet. “I think his international experience has really helped him develop. I think now, he just has to get used to the pace and the schemes, offensively and defensively.”
“Eriobu, on the other hand, is a hell of an active body which we’ll need since we lost Keith Agovida and Brad Guinto, who were extremely vital in our success last conference. Joseph has a capability to become a Cliff Hodge or Calvin Abueva for our team,” he added.
“And with those two players plugging in what we’ve lost, we’re still going to have a really competitive team,” Gavina instead.
However, Gavina admitted it will be hard to replace the veteran leadership the Floodbusters lost with the departure of seniors like Canaleta and Ramos.
“We’ve definitely gone a lot younger, so there’s a lot of teaching going on these past few days with how we do things,” said Gavina, whose team’s oldest player, except for 38-year-old Manny Pacquiao, is Mark Yee at 34, while only three others are over 30 in Ryan Arana (32), and Jason Ballesteros and Hyram Bagatsing, who are both 31.
“But the young guys are picking up really fast,” the young coach was quick to add, referring to Eriobu, who’s 24, and Escoto, who will turn the same age next month, as well as fellow rookie Reden Celda and sophomore Josan Nimes.
“Celda is really an attacking guard that I like since we lost Taha, so he can fill that role a little bit, while Nimes is great on the open court,” Gavina said.
But with the team’s lack of leaders, LA Revilla, 27, along with fellow holdover Yee, will be forced to take on a bigger responsibility not just on the court, but inside the locker room, the Mahindra coach said.
“I don’t want to say we’re starting from zero because we still have a core group of guys here who we’ve really kind of challenged to embrace their new role of being our mainstays and really setting the tone for our younger guys, teaching them how we play basketball at Mahindra, the effort level I command as well the willingness to just play for one another,” Gavina said.
For a coach who lost a handful of his best players in a less than a week, Gavina is doing a good job staying positive.
“For me, I’m always looking at a glass half full, so whatever we lost, we have more than enough that can (compensate) that,” he said.
“It won’t be easy, but we’re not going to just lie down and say I’m not the type of person or coach to ever give an excuse or reason not to be successful, so I’ll find a way to make it work.”