WHEN the 40th season of the PBA kicked off last Sunday, expansion team KIA was supposed to parade not one, not two but three Pacquiaos at the Philippine Arena.
There, of course, was world boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao in the role of KIA playing-coach, with wife Jinkee by his side as the muse of the ballclub during the elaborate opening ceremonies.
And the third one?
His second cousin Rene Pacquiao.
The 6-5 former Southwestern University forward was the Sorentos' third pick in the last rookie draft behind Pacquiao and Kyle Pascual, taken in the third round at 25th overall.
But in a last-minute decision, the KIA coaching staff and management decision to leave out the 27-year-old from the team's official lineup ahead of the Sorentos' debut in the pro league.
Rene didn't hide his disappointment over the cut.
“Nalungkot talaga ako. Kasi expected ko 'yun eh ang makalaro sa PBA. Kaso wala akong magawa eh. Dun na lang muna ako sa D-League, para siguro makakuha pa ng experience,” told Spin.ph.
Rene said he has been informed that he has been relegated to cousin Manny's MP team in the D-League, where another Pacquiao - Pacquiao's brother and former boxer Bobby - happens to be team manager.
“Oo nga eh. Nilagay lang ako sa reserve tapos ang sabi nila, di ba may team si Manny Pacquiao sa D-League, dun daw muna ako,” said the slotman.
“Papalaruin daw ako dito (Kia Sorento), pero dun daw muna ako sa MP (Pacquiao’s D-League team). Hindi pa raw kasi ako ready … wala naman ako magagawa. Ok lang sa akin yun,” he added.
Pacquiao, who played most of his basketball down South, also bared how his relatives in Cebu and Bukidnon had already expected him to be part of the protected 15 of the Sorento.
“Excited rin sana sila, expected nila na lalaro ako sa PBA (sa Linggo), kaya nung sinabi ko na, ‘Wala, reserve lang ako,' nalungkot sila,” he said.
“Pero magsisikap ako, next season. Baka makalaro na ako dun sa PBA. Sana makasabay ko rin si Manny na lumaro. First time rin kasi kami na nagkasama,” Pacquiao said.
Team officials have been mostly silent about the cut, but sources said the coaches feel Rene is still not ready for the big league.
“OK yung laro nung bata pero kailangan pang ipolido. Minsan medaling mag-init kaya nawawala ang laro,” said a team insider who asked not to be identified.
“Pero may pagka mabagal eh. Saka malambot. Pagsinabak sa PBA yan, magsi-shrink yan. Itapat mo yan kila Asi Taulava parang dali lang yan. Lalamunin ng buhay ni Arwind (Santos) yan, pero sana ma-develop pa,” added the source.
Here's a video of the full interview with Rene Pacquiao: