The Alaska Aces had a lethargic showing in last conference's Philippine Cup. It was considered as the worst ever performance of the Aces under coach Luigi Trillo.
But with an intact core back to defend its Commissioner’s Cup title this season, Alaska coach Trillo believes the Aces are moving in the right direction after clinching the 2014 Cebu City Charter Day Cup Invitational basketball championship on Sunday.
The Aces scored a three-game sweep of the pocket tournament in Cebu over the weekend, beating Globalport (87-79), Talk ’N Text (79-70) and the Misamis Oriental-based Tagoloan Tigers (96-86).
“It is nice to do that (sweep the pocket tournament) because we’re trying to build from within,” Trillo told Spin.ph on Wednesday. “You learn and grow together. I’m happy because the guys are getting in the groove again.”
The youthful Trillo said chemistry remains a priority for an Alaska squad that has opened this season with a few rookie additions.
Although there were persistent rumors that Alaska’s flamboyant forward Calvin Abueva is on the trading block, Trillo maintains his stance that chemistry is important for the Aces’ title-retention bid.
“For us, this is the same group we had from last year. I think chemistry is something that’s important,” he said. Other Teams Building Up
San Miguel Beer (formerly Petron), Globalport, Barako Bull, Air21 and Talk ’N Text have bolstered their rosters through trades recently, but Trillo feels his second unit only needs to step up to sustain the intensity of his core led by center Sonny Thoss, Cyrus Baguio, Abueva, Gabby Espinas and JV Casio.
“If you look at the depth of some other teams, they really got stronger. They’ve done things through trades. But I feel good because the guys are coming out of their shell,” explained Trillo, who won his first PBA championship as a coach during last season’s Commissioner’s Cup. Dozier back
With last season’s import Robert Dozier also returning for another tour of duty, Trillo said they can work toward piling up the wins early since the tournament format features a short elimination phase where teams will play just nine games each.
“This week is about getting ready because we’re set to play five games in the next two weeks (of the tournament),” said the Alaska mentor. “And it’s a good thing that (import) Robert Dozier is easy to get along with because he’s low maintenance."
The 6-foot-8 Dozier, last season’s Commissioner’s Cup Best Import awardee, hardly showed rust from a 10-month layoff, averaging 18.3 points in the Cebu pocket tournament.
Alaska opens its title-retention bid against Talk ’N Text when the Commissioner’s Cup opens on March 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Long-time Alaska Governor/Team Manager Joaqui Trillo announced his retirement effectively at the start of the 2013-14 PBA Season. Former Aces assistant coach Dickie Bachmann has been tapped as his replacement.
Last Conference, They nabbed Aldrech Ramos from San Mig Coffee after trading Mac Baracael to Ginebra.
While during the 2013 PBA Draft, Alaska chose Ryan Buenafehas as the 8th pick in the first round. The decision shocked many PBA analysts and fans since the Aces chose Buenafe over college stars Jeron Teng of UST, Nico Salva, whose team mates with Buenafe in Ateneo, and Adamson Falcon scorer Alex Nuyles.
Coach Luigi Trillo stated that Buenafe is the "smartest player" in the draft. Despite having weight issues and missing the rookie applicant biometrics, Buenafe already lost 20 pounds prior to the draft.
Trillo said that the former Blue Eagle has high basketball IQ, good passer and an excellent decision-maker that fits well in the Aces' triangle system.
They also nabbed former FEU Tamaraw Chris "Ping" Exciminiano in the second round and PBA D-League bigman Raymund Ilagan in the third round. The Aces traded their other second round pick to the Talk N text Tropang Texters for a future second round pick as well. Ilagan was not signed.
On November 9, 2013 Alaska has signed former ABL MVP Leo Avenido and rookies Ryan Buenafe and Ping Exciminiano to bolster their lineup in the 2013-14 PBA Philippine Cup.