A PEEK inside the Hoops Center in Mandaluyong on a cloudy Monday afternoon offered no clue that a Talk 'N Text practice was going on, until you see Jimmy Alapag doing shooting practice on one side of the court.
Wearing a white V-neck shirt, baggy cotton shorts, and a white-red Nike Airmax, the recently retired Texters star and now team manager regaled a visitor as he san one long-range shot after another in one of the movable rings at courtside.
On one end of the main court were ballboys peparing to conduct drills for the team’s two Governors’ Cup imports: Jordanian Sam Daghles and American Steffphon Pettigrew. Ryan Reyes, currently out with an Achilles injury, soon started to take his own shots at the other end.
The real action was happening inside one room, where the Texters watched video to review what went wrong in their 101-93 Game Six loss to Rain or Shine a day before.
After more than an hour, the Texters, usually holding practice mid-mornings at the Moro Lorenzo gym inside Ateneo campus in Quezon City, emerged from the viewing room to consume what was left of their two-hour reservation at the facility along busy Shaw Boulevard.
They had 30 minutes left, but they only needed 20 for a walkthrough of some offensive plays.
“We go live tomorrow, make our adjustments, and be ready for Wednesday,” Texters coach Jong Uichico said.
Texters consultant and concurrent national mentor Tab Baldwin, who has taken on a more active role in the Finals, directed the plays ran by a quartet composed of Ranidel de Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, Kevin Alas, and Ivan Johnson.
Jayson Castro, expected to complete the starting quintet, just sat at courtside, listening to Baldwin’s reminders. But the emerging face of the franchise, who played 39 minutes in Game Six and has been nursing a hamstring injury since Game Three, assured he was fine and ready to play.
“Okay lang ako,” the newly crowned Best Player of the Conference assured Spin.ph.
Another regular starter, Aaron Aban, was in street clothes and wore a sling that held his right shoulder, which the defensive stopper injured after a collision with Painters import Wayne Chism in the first quarter of Game Six. He is doubtful for Wednesday.
After Fonacier buried a left-corner triple to cap a play, Uichico called it a day as the team huddled at centercourt for a prayer and some last-minute instructions.
Then sub Willie Miller presided over a half-court shooting contest, a ritual the veteran says he does to help the team release pressure — especially after a loss, this time with Danny Seigle and Johnson as opponents.
The class-clown Miller decided to put a twist to the shootout — shooting with just the right foot. On the first attempt, the three were way off on their attempts, before Miller won the next round, getting to finger-flick the losers’ ears, prompting Johnson to burst into laughter.
“Yun yung regular na ginagawa namin, medyo nagpapa-relax kami,” Miller said. “So balik-balik lang kung ano 'yung pwedeng pampa-kumpiyansa.”
“Bukas ang pinaka-crucial na practice namin. ngayon, medyo more of mental and physical break," he added. "Kailangan muna namin maka-recover.”
Johnson was in such a good mood that the grim-faced American decided to grant an interview for the first time—summing up a light, yet productive practice for the Texters.