How will Blackwater fare in this season’s edition of Philippine Cup in the PBA?
The answer could very well be known right on the Elite’s initial outing today in the kick-off conference, at least if you ask Blackwater coach Bong Ramos.
“Tomorrow’s game (today’s game vs. Northport) is crucial because it will be a test for Blackwater,” said Ramos.
“We will see on what level are we at this stage after the off-season preparation,” added Ramos.
The Elite take on the Batang Pier in the 4:30 p.m. opening tussle of an interesting doubleheader in the resumption of the season opener tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elite are looking to give their best in the prestigious conference considered as the crown jewel every season after they were eliminated last year in the same conference.
However, the Elite had a good account of themselves during the last Governors’ Cup where they finished sixth, which was the franchise best finish in the league.
The Elite likewise underwent massive overhaul during the off-season, but lost most of their key players that helped the team’s impressive run last conference.
Whether Blackwater could sustain its good run last conference will be one of the focuses because the team will campaign minus JP Erram, John Pinto and Paul Zamar.
Erram, his maturity showing good promise and which was enhanced by his brief stint with the Philippine team, had been traded to NLEX, Zamar to San Miguel Beer and Pinto, after refusing a new contract, eventually found his way to Meralco.
The Elite though will now have University of the Philippines stalwart Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter, who were acquired in the Erram trade, and fellow rookie Diego Dario, plus free agent Gelo Alolino and Joseph Eriobu.
Blackwater has also retained two of its reliable gunners in Allein Maliksi and Mike Digregorio who are expected to lead the team’s campaign in the conference.
As there could be a lot of misgivings on the team owing to its relatively small lineup, Ramos remains upbeat about the team’s chances, knowing full well what his team is capable of.
“I believe in my players’ talent,” he said. “All I want to see is if we’ve already improved on our cohesiveness.”
The Batang Pier, on the other hand, did little in terms of re-tooling, merely adding first round pick Robert Bolick and free agent Jomari Sollano in their lineup.
The presence of Stanley Pringle and Sean Anthony who are the team’s 1-2 punches gives Northport fair chance in the All-Filipino tournament, reason why coach Pido Jarencio is just as optimistic as anyone can be.
“The team is ready to compete,” said Jarencio. “We just need to get a good start to get us going.”
Phoenix and Meralco collide in the main offering at 7 p.m., with the winner getting a share of early lead with Barangay Ginebra, which launched its ambitious bid on a high note by routing Talk ‘N Text during the opening last Sunday at the Philippine Arena.