Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tropang Texters back to work

source: Joaquin Henson |

MANILA, Philippines - Talk ‘N’ Text begins its offseason practice on Monday without coach Chot Reyes and four players loaned to Smart Gilas for the FIBA-Asia Championships in Wuhan, China, but the Tropang Texters won’t let their absence delay proceedings to get ready for the Philippine Cup opening Oct. 2.

Reyes is now in Wuhan with Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio to assist Gilas head coach Rajko Toroman in the national team’s bid to qualify for the London Olympics next year. On loan from Talk ‘N’ Text to Gilas are Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jimmy Alapag and Japeth Aguilar. In place of Reyes, assistant coaches Nash Racela and Jamike Jarin will supervise the Tropa’s workouts.

“Of course, the objective is to get to the All-Filipino finals,” said Reyes who piloted the Texters to three finals last season, winning the Philippine and Commissioner’s Cups. “All the players will be back by Monday except those with Gilas. For now, the only new players in our lineup are Japeth and Pamboy (Raymundo).”

Raymundo, a 5-10 defensive point guard from San Sebastian, was Talk ‘N’ Text’s only pick in the recent draft. The 22-year-old rookie was chosen on the second round. Aguilar, 24, was the league’s top overall pick in 2009 but after playing a single game for Burger King, was traded to Talk ‘N’ Text then loaned to Gilas.

Former Meralco cagers Shawn Weinstein and Bam-Bam Gamalinda moved to Talk ‘N’ Text on a draft day deal involving the Bolts and Powerade but Reyes said neither has a guaranteed contract. “Their contracts are expired so they’ll be trying out for roster spots,” said Reyes. Former Talk ‘N’ Text forward Mark Yee went to Meralco in the shuffle.

Reyes said the Texters will be handicapped early next conference with the Gilas reinforcements taking a two-week break before returning to PBA action. “Jimmy needs six weeks to fully heal his badly bruised rib,” said Reyes. “Obviously, he’s not getting that due to Gilas so he still won’t be 100 percent in October. Ranidel will have his fractured nose operated on after Wuhan so he won’t be 100 percent either.”

Alapag was clearly slowed down by his rib injury in the recent Governors Cup. Also hobbled by injuries late in the finals were guards Jason Castro and Ryan Reyes. “We expect Jason and Ryan to be fully healthy as they’re now on vacation and recovering,” said Reyes. “Our problem is we won’t start the conference with a complete lineup because we have to give Jimmy, Kelly and Ranidel a two-week break after Wuhan.”

As for Aguilar, Reyes said he expects the 6-9 forward to play a major role in the Texters’ rotation this season. He added that the teams to beat in the Philippine Cup are B-Meg, Petron and Barangay Ginebra.

Last season, Talk ‘N’ Text fell a title short of registering a Grand Slam, losing to Petron in Game 7 of the Governors Cup finals. Still, Reyes piloted the Texters to a 47-17 record, a .734 winning clip – the highest in the PBA in 27 years since Great Taste posted a 39-14 mark or .736 in 1984. Talk ‘N’ Text had a 20-7 record in the Philippine Cup, 15-2 in the Commissioner’s Cup (including 12 wins in a row) and 12-8 in the Governors Cup.

Reyes now has seven championships under his belt, joining Baby Dalupan, Tim Cone, Norman Black and Joseph Uichico as the only coaches in PBA history to bag at least seven crowns.