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Arwind eyes Grand Slam

San Miguel's Arwind Santos tap the ball from behind of Vic Manuel as Ronald Tubid ready to help during PBA game 7 finals action at Smart Araneta Coliseum.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Manila, Philippines – After winning the Philippine Cup last Wednesday, San Miguel Beer became the only team with a chance of winning the PBA grand slam, a sweep of the three conferences.

And Arwind Santos, one of the heroes of SMB’s win, said yesterday that winning the slam will be their objective when they begin the quest for a second straight championship next week in the Commissioner’s Cup.

Santos had no reservation in believing his team has got what it takes to achieve the rare result. After all, SMB had done it before although his coach, Leo Austria, is not looking too far ahead.

“Walang imposible,” said Santos, whose triple in the dying minutes of Game 7 against Alaska sealed the deal for the embattled Beermen who flirted with defeat before pulling through.

“Sabi ko nga sa sarili ko na nung nagawa last season ng Purefoods, o ng San Mig (Super Coffee), kaya naman pala. Walang imposible.”

San Miguel won the slam in 1989 behind a talented cast led by Ramon Fernandez, Samboy Lim and Hector Calma. It was coached by Norman Black, now with Meralco.

Other grand slam winners were the Crispa Redmanizers (1976 and 1983), Alaska Milkmen (1996) and the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers (2014).

Santos said winning the slam again would be difficult. But he believes that SMB has the talent to do it.

Joining him in the quest are reigning MVP and Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo, guards Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter, and forwards

He said they already took the first step in that direction by capturing the All-Filipino title.

“Kung manalo ka naman ng all-Filipino, yun naman yung palaging unang hakbang kung pag-uusapan ang grand slam e. Since kami yung nanalo, tingin ko naman kaya,” said the 33-year-old FEU alumnus who was adjudged PBA Finals MVP.

“Pero nasa sa amin ng mga players yun e, kung gugustuhin namin, kung uhaw ba kami after manalo dito sa Philippine Cup. Kasi kung samahan ang pag-uusapan, kita naman na nandun yung trust and confidence namin sa isa’t isa sa team, from coaches to teammates.”

“Siyempre itong dalawang susunod na conferences may import, sana ok yung makuha namin madaling mapakisamahan. Ang importante sa lahat malaki puso and warrior din sya,” added Santos.

While Santos is upbeat, coach Austria is realistic. He said it’s still too early to talk about the grand slam as other teams are also strong and will do everything to deny them the honor.

“Too early. Ako kasi ang palagi ko naman sinasabi e ‘one step at a time’ and ‘one game at a time’ kami,” said Austria, who steered San Miguel to its first title in his first conference with the team.

“Yes there’s a chance kasi kami ang nanalo ng Philippine Cup. Pero alam naman ng lahat yung ibang teams e paghahandaan kami. Kung makakuha kami ng inport na dominant, mas malaki ang posibilidad. Pero sa ngayon, hindi ko iniisip yan,” added Austria.

SMB second title will depend to a certain extent on the ability of its import, Arinze Onuako, a 6-foot-7 former stalwart of Syracuse University. Onuako gained interest from several NBA teams after his strong showing in the previous NBA D-League Showcase.

He played for the Canton Charge and his NBA experience include just seven games — five with the New Orleans Hornets and two with Cleveland Cavaliers. He averaged 1.6 points.

“We understand naman na kung may offer siya to play in the NBA, of course mas priority nya yun. We’ll see in the next few days, although now we’re looking at other potential imports,” said Austria.