WHILE saying he liked how Alaska fared in a preseason joust, Aces coach Jeffrey Cariaso admitted that his charges have their work cut out for them.
“Not too bad. I think we can improve a lot defensively, there are still a lot of breakdowns that we’re not happy with. That’s the stuff we pride ourselves on and we have to be good at it. Nice thing is we still have two weeks to work on it,” said Cariaso.
“We’ll have a couple more practice games and then we should be better defensively with at least understanding the proper way of doing things come opening. So we should be okay,” he added.
Alaska wound up with a 2-1 card in the Phoenix Super Basketball Tourney capped by an 81-79 decision over defending five-time Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer last Friday at the Upper Deck Sports Center in Pasig.
NLEX topped the four-team pocket tourney after going unbeaten in three games, including a 104-97 victory over Phoenix also last Friday.
Cariaso, a former Aces standout during his playing years in the pro league, took over from Alex Compton last August.
He steered the Wilfred Steven Uytengsu-owned ballclub to a 5-6 record in his debut conference helm where Alaska reached the quarterfinals of the Governors’ Cup but lost to TNT.
The Aces tabbed former San Sebastian College gunner Allyn Bulanadi in the special Gilas Pilipinas draft last December but he will only be available to suit up for Alaska after his Gilas stint.
Aside from Bulanadi, the Aces picked speedy former Lyceum guard Jaycee Marcelino, and former Far Eastern University and Letran big men Barkley Ebona and Rey Publico, respectively, in the regular draft.
Alaska also sent Fil-Italian playmaker Mike DiGregorio to the KaTropa in exchange for Simon Enciso last January.
The Aces’ new additions are expected to combine with the likes of mainstays JVee Casio, Vic Manuel, Jeron Teng, Kevin Racal, and Sonny Thoss in their bid to end a long 20-year title drought in the import-less conference.
Cariaso is convinced that Alaska learned from the pocket tourney as it trains its sights on the season-opening Philippine Cup that kicks off on March 8.
“I was telling the team that I wish all our practice games are like this because this is where you learn the most,” said Cariaso.
“You learn about adjustments, you learn about line-ups, it forces you to be clearer and to execute, especially defensively on our side. So, the challenge was there.” – Michael Jugado