SLR's Second Stringers

On: 10 September 2008

Photo was taken by Alexander Yee in Bahrain

Against the backdrop of teams trading, practicing and competing in exhibition games, the Sta. Lucia Realtors are quietly training in the camp of coach Kevin Barbosa in Boston before going through a different group of trainers in New Hampshire.

Unlike before wherein only a handful of players were given a chance to experience the rigorous training, this time the whole team was included. It is not yet certain if the two promising rookies, Kelvin West Gregorio and Chito Jaime, were in the list since there were no confirmed reports yet that they have agreed to the terms set by the team. The third pick of the Realtors, 6'6" Christian Cabatu has already been released to the free agency market.

Nevertheless, there is a good reason to expect that Gregorio and Jaime will be suiting up with the Realtors soon. Both will play vital roles in relieving the big men, specifically in rebounding. They will most probably be replacing Alvin Pua and Philip Butel in the line-up.

With both rookies on the team, the roster at this time will look like this:

C - Dennis Espino, Marlou Aquino,
PF - Dennis Daa, Nelbert Omolon, Chito Jaime
SF - Kelly Williams, Kelvin Gregorio, Melvin Mamaclay
SG - Ryan Reyes, Joseph Yeo
PG - Dennis Miranda, Paolo Mendoza, Christian Coronel

The first five looks impressive and capable enough to defend their 2008 Philippine Cup title, but the second unit might be looked down and underestimated by their opponents.

There is no question that the first unit can score, definitely defend and run the breaks, especially with Williams and Reyes anchoring it, but the players coming off the bench are more offensive minded.

Aquino is still good for 8-10 points per game plus 2 blocks and Yeo is capable in scoring in bunches of 15-20 points per outing. Omolon was a candidate for Most Improved Player (MIP) last season not because of his defense, but because his average points per game has vastly improved. He even had a 40-point output in one game last season after displaying an array of moves under the basket and beyond the three-point line. Mendoza, is still the team's resident zone breaker and could shoot the lights out of the arena in any given good night. He was best remembered last season as the one who put the wining shot against Ginebra in one of their out-of-town games. Meanwhile, Gregorio might still be a rookie, but he has enough experienced in the amateurs to take charge in the offensive end when one of his more famous teammates cannot hack it.

Some critics might lambast Aquino for his slowness, Mendoza for making poor decisions on the floor or even Omolon for giving up too many useless fouls. However, these aspects of the player are part of the game and it is how they improve on these facets that should be emphasized. For instance, Mendoza has steadily improved his ball handling skills as he gets older. He even set a new mentality which is to find the most open player first before taking the shot himself, which is very obvious in their last few games in the Fiesta Cup and in their exhibition games in the Middle East. It might have taken too long for Mendoza to do this, but remember that he also had to endure the pressure of expectation that he should make most of his shots from the outside after he was drafted by the team in 2000.

The Realtors's second stringers have endured years of negative criticisms, but they never let these totally affect their games. This coming season, the second stringers will prove these critics wrong again just like what they did in the 2008 Philippine Cup.

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