AN undermanned Petron Blaze begins its quest for the all-Filipino crown against a rejigged Globalport squad as both teams debut in the PBA’s 39th season Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Boosters are fresh from a runner-up finish in last season’s Governors Cup Finals late last month.
But Petron won’t have starting playmaker Alex Cabagnot, who is still recovering from a torn plantar fascia and Ronald Tubid, who will be out for at least six weeks due to a knee injury.
Nonetheless, the Boosters remain rock solid with vastly improved center June Mar Fajardo and reigning MVP Arwind Santos leading the way in their 8 p.m. match up with Globalport.
Expected to make their debut are Globalport’s four highly-touted rookies — Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, both who played recently in the UAAP, along with former Ateneo five-peat UAAP champion Nico Salva and Justin Chua.
Ritchie Ticzon, who was named the Batang Pier’s new interim coach just more than a week ago, will also have his baptism of fire as a PBA coach.
Leo Austria, one of Gee Abanilla’s top assistants, said Globalport is not the type of team that can be taken lightly, considering the massive manpower buildup it underwent during the offseason.
“Maraming surprises ang team na iyan (Globalport),” Austria said.
“Their line up is full of winners. Kita mo na lang at nandiyan si Justin Chua at Nico Salva na mga miyembro ng UAAP champion team sa Ateneo. Tapos si (Terrence) Romeo na UAAP MVP saka RR Garcia na MVP din ng UAAP dati.”
Austria, who piloted the San Miguel Beermen to the ABL crown last June before joining Petron, believes the Batang Pier’s combination of rookies along with veterans like Sol Mercado, Jay Washington and even the comebacking Eric Menk easily make the Batang Pier a contender.
“We don’t have the luxury to be relaxed. But then, our team is improving kahit na one week pa lang kami nage-ensayo kaya bukas, mate-test yung program ng team,” he added.