CEBU – Talk `N Text begins its bold drive for a fourth straight Philippine Cup title when it battles sister team Meralco in one of three kick-off games ushering the 39th season of the PBA at the New Cebu Coliseum here
The Tropang Texters are just one of the few teams that made minor roster changes in the off season, opting to rely on their solid, veteran core led by last year's All-Filipino Best Player of the Conference Jason Castro, Larry Fonacier, Jimmy Alapag, and Ranidel de Ocampo.
The three-time reigning champions however, will miss the services of the 6-foot-5 De Ocampo in the 3 p.m. encounter.
De Ocampo, a Gilas Pilipinas mainstay, strained his right calf muscle recently.
The game also marks the return to action of former MVP Kelly Williams for Talk `N Text after missing more than half of the season last year due to a recurring blood disorder.
Talk `N Text coach Norman Black recognizes Meralco as a tough team due to its offseason build up that saw the franchise acquired two-time scoring champion Gary David.
“We are just hoping to get off to a good start in the conference even if we are facing a tough team like Meralco,” said Black.
“We still want to be good offensively but at the same time improve on the defensive end of the court,” he added.
Meralo coach Ryan Gregorio, meantime, said he's happy with his current roster that also saw the Bolts acquiring big man Rabeh Al-Hussaini from Talk 'N Text in a three-team, multi-player trade.
“It will be interesting to know how we will fare against a stable team after another round of roster face-lift during the off season,” said Gregorio on the eve of the game.
“We hope to start off on the right foot. We have new players in tow and some changes in our points of attack,” explained the multi-titled mentor, who piloted the Bolts to the Final Four for the first time in franchise history during the season-ending Governors Cup.
Veteran forward Kerby Raymundo, another vital offseason recruit for the Bolts, will be out for the first two weeks of the tournament as he continues to undergo rehabilitation and strengthening on his knees.
Cebuano fans meanwhile, are expected to give a rousing welcome to former Southwestern University stalwart Eliud Poligrates, who was drafted and signed by the Tropang Texters.