VETERANS Roger Yap, Celino Cruz and Rich Alvarez as well as rookie pick Jett Vidal were among the early cuts as Barako Bull started the tedious process of trimming down a pool of players that ballooned to as much as 28 after a flurry of trades in the PBA offseason.
Head coach Bong Ramos has also released rookie Mike Silungan and Elmer Espiritu, who has moved to the Air21 Express, as the Energy Cola moved a step closer to picking the 17-man lineup - 14 active players and three reserves - allowed by the pro league's rules.
They Said It!
“We’re trying doubly hard to squeeze the best unit out of the pool we have. Kaya nating bumuo ng malakas na roster. Walang duda.” - Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos
“Nakausap ko si Roger, sabi ko, 'Medyo masikip ang guard (rotation) natin. Pwede mo muna sigurong subukan ang ibang teams,'” said Ramos, who already has Denok Miranda, Jonas Villanueva, Robert Labagala and rookies Jeric Fortuna and Darwin Cordero fighting for spots in the one position.
But the good news is, the surplus of players has made Ramos confident that he can form a competitive team that's deep in every position except the center spot.
“We’re trying doubly hard to squeeze the best unit out of the pool we have. Kaya nating bumuo ng malakas na roster. Walang duda,” said the soft-spoken coach.
Ramos is spoiled for choice at the off-guard position with former MVP Willie Miller, Ronjay Buenafe, Keith Jensen, Mark Macapagal and youngsters Paul Sorongan and Carlo Lastimosa battling for places.
“We just want a balanced mix of veterans and young guns sa two spot. Pero syempre, mas lamang ang mga beterano,” said Ramos.
The Cubao-based mentor likewise believes the Energy Cola won’t be short of options in the small forward position as JC Intal, Willy Wilson, Gilbert Bulawan and Hans Thiele are already shoo-ins for spots.
As Danny Seigle is still negotiating for a better contract, Ramos declared that his power forward spot can still be a fearsome position with veterans Rico Maierhofer, Mick Pennisi, Mark Isip and sophomore Dave Marcelo providing both scoring and the needed muscle.
“This is the spot where I think we can be at par with the other powerhouse teams,” said Ramos as he rushed to finalize a lineup which he intends to bring to Cebu for a four-team pocket tournament on Thursday afternoon.
Ramos plans to name his final 17 after the Cebu trip.
“Kung mapapansin mo, championship experience… hindi napapag-iwanan ang team,” added Ramos.
The problem is, wide-bodied Fil-Am Dorian Pena is the only reliable center the Energy Cola have underneath with Magi Sison as the only back-up, although Ramos plans to have Maierhofer and Pennisi sliding down to the middle from time to time.
“We really lack a reliable big man. Pero guys like Rico and Mick can dabble in that spot,” Ramos said.
“Mahirap talaga ang trabaho ngayon. Pero once na nabuo na namin 'yung lineup, makikita niyo na ang direksyon ng team,” added the former Mapua guard.
Pena is optimistic that the coaching staff can come up with a respectable roster.
“Of course, we’re looking to get better. And we’re gonna get better in time,” said Pena. “We’re looking to compete in the league. Once we get the team together, we’re gonna be pretty good."