Realtors Rises with a Flash

On: 28 April 2009

Reyes and Williams apply their defense

Two years ago the Sta. Lucia Realtors was one of the worst team in the PBA. Winning games seems was a mile away as they struggled against more athletic teams in the league even with the number 1 draft pick on their bench, Kelly Williams. Last year, it is a very different story. After 19 games the team won already 12 to finish second overall in the elimination phase and eventually capped their amazing run by winning the finals in a seven-game series against the Tender Juicy Giants.

The Realtors has earned the respect of many teams after they won their first ever all-Filipino crown and they finished the two other tourneys in the upper half of the list since then. The amazing turn-around in the standings leads one to wonder if they could still maintain their elite status with import Anthony Johnson in tow.

There are a number of potential reasons why there is optimism on their chances in the PBA Motolite Fiesta Cup. Here are two that quickly come to mind:
  • The Realtor did not change their coaching staff. They still have coach Boyet Fernandez drawing up their battle plans, a person who had never been a head coach before. Coaching changes are often thought to be helpful, although one would suspect that moving from an experienced coach like Al Francis Chua to a rookie would not be a step in the right direction (then again, maybe it really is).

  • How about Ryan Reyes? As a reward for playing so badly two years ago, the Realtors were given the third pick in the 2007 draft. And with this pick the team took Reyes, a player that many thought would not be a good choice at the first round considering the Realtors' need for a big man. Reyes, though, has been a revelation so far. He is still topping the league in steals despite a back injury that plague him since his rookie days. Yes, he is still playing hurt. Can you imagine what he can do without it?
The table below shows that aside from Reyes, the Realtors are enjoying from the renewed performance of 36-year old Marlou Aquino. With the exception of Johnson, Williams and Reyes, this team should be on pace for a top four finish as long as Aquino continue to play as he is doing right now.

AQUINO, Marlou13C927.7811.675.11
CORONEL, Christian40G86.251.500.25
DAA, Dennis14F74.140.571.14
ESPINO, Dennis16C-F716.714.292.00
GONZALEZ, Norman28F915.226.113.22
GREGORIO, Kelvin07F12.000.000.00
JAIME, Chito12F11.000.000.00
MAMACLAY, Melvin19F12.000.000.00
MENDOZA, Paolo08G811.003.251.38
MIRANDA, Dennis32G927.226.443.00
OMOLON, Nelbert03F814.754.882.13
REYES, Ryan10G726.438.005.43
WILLIAMS, Kelly21F939.2213.788.89
YEO, Joseph18G8 24.759.753.38
JOHNSON, Anthony23F942.7830.6715.00

Aquino's numbers suggest that he is one of the key reasons behind this team’s leap. During his early years, Aquino was one of the most productive players on another team that won a PBA championship. This conference with the Realtors, Aquino's performance was essentially the same as it was when he was still younger. Last year, though, Aquino was struggling at the center spot and many thought he is overweight and a bit uninspired after the team won the all-Filipino title. His numbers were still average compared to the other younger slotmen in the league, but way above what people had come to expect from the Skyscraper at this time.

Aquino’s massive drop-off seems to be entirely connected to his age and conditioning, because this year - after reducing his weight - his numbers has risen again. In other words, as long as Aquino play inspired games and will his body to overcome the challenges posed by the new crop of centers, improvement in the team’s performance is expected.

AQUINO, Marlou13C1.
CORONEL, Christian40G0.
DAA, Dennis14F0.
ESPINO, Dennis16C-F1.00.30.432.00
GONZALEZ, Norman28F0.
GREGORIO, Kelvin07F0.
JAIME, Chito12F0.
MAMACLAY, Melvin19F0.
MENDOZA, Paolo08G1.
MIRANDA, Dennis32G4.90.40.331.89
OMOLON, Nelbert03F0.
REYES, Ryan10G2.
WILLIAMS, Kelly21F2.70.70.561.56
YEO, Joseph18G2.
JOHNSON, Anthony23F2.00.31.894.11

Beyond Johnson, Williams, Reyes and Aquino, there is also a need to look at the play of Joseph Yeo. His points per game may be slightly down compared to his average last year, but his hustle plays has greatly improved. His rebounding and shot blocking are slightly up, while maintaining his turnovers to the same level as before. One should note, though, that if Yeo only made some crucial plays in their two close games and stopped from making those unnecessary 3-point shots, the Realtors may have been up 8-1, instead of 6-3. He has one of the lowest percentage from the rainbow area among the Realtors, as shown in the table below. In other words, Yeo's improvement is as important as what we see from the other four players in leading this team to more wins.

AQUINO, Marlou13C52.56NA45.16
CORONEL, Christian40G66.6740.00100.00
DAA, Dennis14F30.00NANA
ESPINO, Dennis16C-F30.7725.0063.64
GONZALEZ, Norman28F44.4440.0078.57
MENDOZA, Paolo08G0.0044.44100.00
MIRANDA, Dennis32G40.0053.8553.85
OMOLON, Nelbert03F57.1422.22100.00
REYES, Ryan10G56.5225.0069.23
WILLIAMS, Kelly21F43.6616.6765.12
YEO, Joseph18G38.468.3371.11
JOHNSON, Anthony23F59.4335.1977.14

Beyond the five players mentioned above, the Realtors can greatly benefit from more hustle plays of its supporting cast which includes, Dennis Espino, Dennis Miranda, Nelbert Omolon, Norman Gonzalez and Paolo Mendoza. If the management and coaching staff of the Realtors could somehow get a quality big man from the lottery this year or from trades, then the team could seriously maintain their hold of the upper half of the standings every conference. And that has to look awfully good after all the losses fans of this team endured two seasons ago.

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