Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Barangay Ginebra: Raising the roof (of expectations)

Barangay Ginebra: Raising the roof (of expectations)
by rick olivares pics by nuki sabio

The 2013 PBA Draft haul: Greg Slaughter (number one overall) and James Forrester (number four overall) plus John Usita, Alvin Padilla, and Jens Knuttel.

Yes, Barangay Ginebra sure hit the lottery for this draft. They not only netted Greg Slaughter, a legit seven-footer but they also tabbed the exciting James Forrester out of Arellano University. The two look to be keepers for this team.

What do I like about the draft of Slaughter? For one, they brought in a bright young kid with loads of potential. He can post up. Hit the hook, spin around for a lay-up, and hit the outside shot. He can defend. He’s a seven-footer (I know I said that already). Perhaps more importantly, he’s also a winner. He’s got what it takes to lead Ginebra back to the Promised Land.

Greg has won with the University of Visayas and Ateneo. He has a gold medal from the Southeast Asian Games. He’s played on the national team. The man is a flat out winner.

Now he also joins a cast of winners – LA Tenorio and Emman Monfort have also won titles with Ateneo. Tenorio has also won a PBA title with Alaska. Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand have also led Ginebra to championships on top of winning individual awards. The coaching staff is also composed of winners who have brought home the bacon in the amateur and pro ranks: Ato Agustin, Jorge Gallent, Boycie Zamar, Art dela Cruz, Freddie Abuda and team manager Al Chua.

It’s nice to have a core that knows how to win because that will get you over the hump.

Greg will start right away for Ginebra with Japeth Aguilar playing off him. Now all of a sudden Slaughter and Aguilar look like the second coming of Marlou Aquino and EJ Fiehl albeit with more potential (they certainly are more decorated coming into the pros than Ginebra’s classic Twin Towers). They also have Billy Mamaril and Jay-R Reyes on the back stop.

On paper the frontline looks good. But Aguilar and Reyes can be inconsistent hence their having moved around from one team to another. Japeth has been with Air21 (ever so briefly) then Talk ‘n Text then Global Port and now Barangay Ginebra. Reyes has moved around a bit as well (Rain or Shine, Air21, Alaska, and Meralco). The onus is now on them to prove their worth.

Aguilar would love to build on his stellar showing in the last FIBA Asia Championships. What he needs to do is to put in a solid conference rather than a few games. That would give him the confidence he needs so bad.

With Rico Maierhofer and Willy Wilson gone from the team, someone has to really rebound for this team. If Greg can haul down more than 10 boards a game and Aguilar, Mamaril, and Reyes do their share in grabbing those boards for head coach Ato Agustin then losing Maierhofer and Wilson won’t be so bad (although Rico was so underutilized for this team).

It can’t be all defense though. If the frontline can score a lot of points they will open up the lane for their wings and their shooters.

And there’s death coming from the wings!

The three-spot for Barangay Ginebra looks solid with James Forrester teaming up with Chris Ellis and Mac Baracael. They are not only athletic but they will provide a lot of energy and hustle for this team.

Oh, here’s a thought… Barangay Ginebra will have the PBA’s version of Lob City as Slaughter, Aguilar, Mamaril, Reyes, Ellis, and Forrester will be skying in for throwdowns of epic proportions.

The off guard position will see Ginebra lifers Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand alternate.

At the point guard position, Ginebra will be solid with LA Tenorio, Josh Urbiztondo, and Emman Monfort. The question is how will Agustin find minutes for this cadre of excellent playmakers. But as good as their quarterbacks are there’s the question of their frontcourt passing. What makes a player like Marc Pingris or Ranidel De Ocampo dangerous is they can pass that ball from the post or facing the basket. If Slaughter, Aguilar, Mamaril, and Reyes can make smart decisions around the lane then it’s going to be a long game for other teams.

Consider what Barangay Ginebra can do – they can run or play the halfcourt set. They can shoot from the outside and now they’ll be able to pound it inside.

Still this team will have 13 days to work on their chemistry. It’s an exciting time for this team. Now they have to go deep in the playoffs.

Barangay Ginebra team manager Al Chua welcomes draft pick James Forrester.

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