By NICK GIONGCO
Manila, Philippines – With Manny Pacquiao in attendance, Kia Motors drew the participation of a motley crew of dribblers who showed up and tried to make an impression during a tryout staged by one of three new teams that will see action in the PBA in October.
Louie Gonzalez, a member of the coaching staff of the soon-to-be-formed squad, said a total of 35 players signed up at the penthouse of the Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall gym in Cainta on Monday night, including 33-year-old journeyman Rich Alvarez.
Alvarez, the PBA’s top rookie in 2004, had played last for Talk ‘N Text although he made his debut with Shell and later suited up for Alaska, Red Bull, Purefoods, Ginebra and Air21.
Alvarez was the most recognizable name among the players although there were a few familiar names like ex-PBA campaigners Norman Gonzales and Francis Adriano, former La Salle and Globalport guard LA Revilla and even Pacquiao’s younger brother and former fighter Bobby Pacquiao.
The aspirants wore jerseys that had the Kia emblem and Pacquiao, the fighting congressman, watched from the sidelines and occasionally conferred with members of his coaching staff.
If there was one thing that Pacquiao took note of was that many of the players lacked the stamina.
“Kulang pa sa hangin. Kailangan talagang kundisyon ang bawat isa. Hindi pwede yung madaling mapagod sa laro,” said Pacquiao, who, even at 35, remains one of the world’s fittest athletes.
Pacquiao will assume the position of playing coach and the eight-division titleholder said he would instill discipline on the team.
“Sasabayan ko silang tumakbo sa umaga. Tingnan natin kung sino ang tatagal.”
Pacquiao, who was welcomed at the gym by Sta. Lucia big boss Buddy Encarnado, did not change and instead took off his coat and watched the action intensely as if he was in the middle of a regular game and not a mere scrimmage.
Still, Pacquiao admits there is a still a long way to go before they finalize the composition of the team he wants won’t end up resembling a doormat once it gets to rumble with the heavyweights of the PBA.
There is still a dispersal draft that will take place in July before the actual PBA Draft in August and Pacquiao is optimistic that there is time to come up with a competitive team.