Ginebra back in fiery form

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Ginebra back in fiery form

Post by garrett_jax on Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:56 am

Ginebra back in fiery form
SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star Updated September 28, 2012

Crowd darling Barangay Ginebra missed out on a finals slot in three PBA conferences last season, finishing sixth in the Philippine Cup and third in both the Commissioner’s and Governors Cups. But things are looking up for the Kings with the pro league’s 38th campaign set to open this Sunday.

Ginebra brought in major reinforcements in the offseason and from the way the Kings are shaping up, Barangay diehards are conjuring visions of a return to the glory era when coach Siot Tanquingcen led the franchise to back-to-back championships in 2004-05. L.A. Tenorio, 28, has moved in from Alaska to infuse youth in the backcourt that still counts on crack holdovers Jay-Jay Helterbrand, Mike Cortez and Mark Caguioa.

From the rookie draft, Fil-Ams Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen hopped aboard the Ginebra bandwagon. Ellis, 23, was the sixth overall pick after June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Alex Mallari, Cliff Hodge and Aldrech Ramos via NLex in the D-League. Jensen, 24, was the eighth choice. In official PBA measurements, Ellis came in at 6-4 1/16 and Jensen at 6-4 1/8. Among the 58 rookie applicants, Ellis had the highest vertical leap at 11 feet, three inches. Jensen wasn’t far behind at 11 feet flat. Another recruit is 6-3 Elmer Espiritu who transferred from Air 21.

Others returning to the Ginebra fold are Willy Wilson, Billy Mamaril, Rico Maierhofer, Allein Maliksi, Rudy Hatfield, Dylan Ababou and Kerby Raymundo. Eric Menk is in the reserve list and will likely join former Ginebra guard Rob Labagala in the San Miguel Beermen team in the ABL. While the ABL is still on vacation, Menk could fill in as an emergency player with Ginebra. Menk was the casualty in the numbers game as the PBA limits a team to five Fil-Ams. Ginebra has six Fil-Ams with Menk, Hatfield, Wilson, Cortez, Ellis and Jensen. Struck out of the roster in the offseason were Labagala, K. G. Canaleta, John Wilson and Enrico Villanueva.

* * * *

A statistic where Ginebra will probably show an improvement this season is fastbreak points. Long known as a run-and-gun team, the Kings weren’t as explosive in transition last campaign, ranking only eighth in the league with 7.6 fastbreak points a game. But the Kings made their mark as a tough defensive unit, topping that statistical category with an average yield of 86.4. Rebounding wasn’t a problem either as Ginebra ranked No. 2 with an average of 50.4, a shade behind B-Meg’s 50.5. The figures clearly pointed to where Ginebra needed to get a shot in the arm. Tanquingcen looked for a quick point guard with a transition mentality and wings who could run the floor. He got exactly what he wished for in Tenorio, Ellis and Jensen.

In the pre-season exhibitions, Ginebra gave a glimpse of what’s in store for the fans. The Kings bamboozled Rain or Shine, 98-83, and walloped San Mig Coffee (formerly B-Meg), 103-77. They crushed the visiting Australian under-20 squad by 40 points. There were close losses to Alaska by four and Air 21 by two but Tanquingcen wasn’t at all perturbed.

“Nice to see the team running,” said a Ginebra source. “If you see us run and gun, you’re gonna love it.” Ellis and Jensen figure to play major minutes as rookies in Tanquingcen’s scheme of things. Ellis was described as a John Arigo look-alike because of his incredible 79.5-inch wingspan. “He’s super athletic with long arms,” said the source. “Chris can guard one, two and three. He’s quick, he can jump like hell. On the break, he elevates for a dunk without momentum, ‘di niya kailangan ng bwelo. I haven’t seen anyone dunk like Chris before.”

As for Jensen, the source said he’s a younger version of Hatfield with a three-point touch. He’s expected to play the three and four spots. Tanquingcen’s challenge is to find minutes for his players. But he’s not likely to stick to a rigid rotation. He’ll shuffle his troops depending on match-ups and how he plans to attack a game. Two holdovers expected to play key roles this season are Maliksi and Ababou who’ve been on fire all pre-season long.

Raymundo and Mamaril will anchor the middle with Hatfield, Maierhofer and Wilson helping out off the boards at the four spot.

* * * *

What’s making things exciting in the Barangay is Tenorio’s arrival. L.A.’s coming in fresh from a scintillating performance with Smart Gilas in the Jones Cup and the FIBA Asia Cup where he gained the respect of opposing coaches and players as the Philippines’ main man. He missed out on several pre-season games and practices while playing abroad so Tanquingcen is expected to break him slowly as the Philippine Cup progresses. Tenorio, however, should be playing at full throttle sooner than later. There’s no point guard in the league with a higher basketball I.Q. and Tenorio won’t take too long learning the ropes at Ginebra with Cortez and Helterbrand showing the way.

In the middle of this frenzy is reigning MVP Caguioa. The Spark would like nothing better than to play on a championship team as a follow-up to his MVP season. The new-look Ginebra makes its PBA debut against Global Part before an expected sell-out crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum this Sunday.


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