TALK `N Text slew of big men are in for a big challenge.
With the team’s coaching staff opting to go small as far as import is concerned, the Tropang Texters’ frontcourt men will be hardpressed to stop Barangay Ginebra import Vernon Macklin when they face each other again in Game 3 of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Due to the exigency of its need for a ball handler and a scorer with injuries to key players Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger, and Kelly Williams, Talk 'N Text management decided to bring in prolific 6-foot-5 import Tony Mitchell to replace seven-footer Jerome Jordan.
But the move meant the task of stopping the hulking Macklin now falls in the hands of players like Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Ranidel de Ocampo and Ali Peek - none of whom is really looking forward to the task.
“It is what it is, man. At this point, I’ll just do my job. It’s gonna be tough,” said Ali Peek, who himself is coming back from an injury. “But it’s the playoffs, it won’t matter. It’s gonna be tough all around.”
At the same time, the 35-year-old man-mountain also looks at the development as another chance for the Tropang Texters to prove they have what it takes to endure adversity.
“This is part of the challenge. Let’s see what happens. My team has gone through a lot of battles on and off the court,” added Peek, who added he’s used to guarding bigger players like Macklin.
“My college coach had me guard guys like him (Macklin). It’s always tough, but I had to face the challenge,” added Peek, who has now idea how coach Norman Black will split the defensive minutes on Macklin among the Tropang Texters big men.
De Ocampo also believes the task at hand will be very tough for the Texters, who evened the best-of-five semis series at 1-1 following their 85-79 win in Game Two.
“Hindi nga namin alam ang gagawin eh. Basta lalaruin na lang namin,” said De Ocampo.
The soft-spoken forward from Tanza, Cavite said the spate of injuries that befell the team and the sudden decision to change import midstream into the semifinals series should make Talk `N Text the obvious underdog.
“Masyado na kaming undermanned. Andami nang nawala sa amin. Kaya tignan na lang natin kung ano mangyayari,” added De Ocampo, who disclosed that taking on the versatile Macklin will be one of the toughest assignments he will face this conference.
“Ang laki nun. Tapos malakas. Mahirap bantayan. Paano namin pipigilan yun? Hindi namin alam,” said De Ocampo, seemingly trying to find an answer to his own question.
The sweet-shooting member of Gilas Pilipinas recalled having taken on Macklin defensively in the Tropang Texters’ Game Two win.
“Dalawang beses ko siya binantayan. Naka-score ng isa, tapos foul pa ko sa isa,” added De Ocampo.
As for Talk `N Text’s new import, De Ocampo can only hope Mitchell can live up to his billing as a real scorer and the reigning NBA D-League Rookie of the Year.
“Tignan natin sa laro. Hindi ko pa kasi siya nakasama sa scrimmage. Nasa Digos ako nun eh kasama ang Gilas. Pero sabi naman nila magaling nga daw,” he said.
For the young Al-Hussaini, the series is definitely the biggest challenge in his three-year PBA career.
“Siguro ito na nga yun. Sobrang bigat nun for me. Kasi si Macklin ang number one player ng Ginebra. Tapos malaki pa siya at malakas,” said Al-Hussaini, who is playing in his first conference with the Manny V. Pangilinan franchise.
“Pero tiwala naman ako sa samahan ng team namin. Alam ko alam din ng teammates ko na buong team ang involve sa pag-depensa kay Macklin. Kailangan talaga tulungan na lang kami,” he added.