By Waylon Galvez
San Miguel coach Leo Austria is taking a calculated approach in the Beermen’s Grand Slam bid in the PBA’s 43rd season that gets going with the Philippine Cup on December 17.
Austria is also doing a lot in terms of integrating Fil-German bruiser Christian Standhardinger, the No. 1 pick in Sunday’s Rookie Draft, into the Beermen’s system built around four-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo.
“Ang focus natin ‘yung maka-adjust siya sa team. Iyon ang trabaho natin as coach, kung paano na mapapabilis ‘yung bagong player na makuha ‘yung system namin,” Austria told Bulletin-Tempo yesterday.
“We still have the core of the team, andyan sina June Mar (Fajardo), Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Arwind Santos… so maganda ‘yung pag-pasok ni Standhardinger sa team,” he added.
It remains to be seen, however, how quickly the 6-foot-8 Standhardinger can merge with the veteran-laden Beermen since he will be out for at least six months due to his commitment with defending champion Hong Kong Eastern Lions in the ASEAN Basketball League which starts November 15.
While the 6-foot-10 Fajardo remains SMB’s focal point, Austria feels Standhardinger’s entry would also pave the way for big adjustments within the Beermen’s starting unit, with power forward Arwind Santos taking the biggest chunk.
“Alam natin na si Arwind kayang mag-adjust sa position, pwedeng four or three,” he said. “We’re just excited to have June Mar and Christian sa team, pwede namin silang pagsabayin.”
Aside from Standhardinger, the Beermen also boosted their arsenal with the acquisition of former University of Santo Tomas gunner Louie Vigil with the fifth pick in the second round before taking in unheralded Jerome Ortega and former Adamson guard Joseph Nalos in the succeeding rounds.
Standhardinger, seen by many as the bigger version of Star’s Marc Pingris, is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup where the Beermen are eager to extend their dominance for the fourth straight time.
He could make his pro league debut in the mid-tourney Commissioner’s Cup where SMB will defend its crown and is expected to play a big role in its quest for an elusive Governors Cup title for a possible Grand Slam bid.
But Austria is not looking that far ahead. “Hindi na muna, hindi natin iniisip ‘yan. Basta we’ll prepare for the Philippine Cup, ‘yan ang focus ng team. The reason naman na nagkaroon kami ng chance for a Grand Slam is because we won the Philippine Cup, and then the Commissioner’s Cup,” he said.
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