APPRECIATING THE RAIN OR SHINE ELASTO PAINTERS
There were two huge advantages that San Mig Coffee had going for them in their series against Barangay Ginebra in their recently concluded semifinals series of the Philippine Cup.
The first was their championship experience and the second was their legion of scorers.
San Mig Coffee will be hard pressed to repeat that against Rain or Shine that is not only battle tested but is just as deep and is built with a lot of players who can explode at any given time.
In my opinion, Rain or Shine is the true heir to Sonny Jaworski’s classic Ginebra teams. They are built with spare parts, discards, who-are-yous, and unlikely stars. They have an old school coach in Yeng Guiao who is just as colorful and tough as Jaworski. And his Elasto Painters are tough. Old school tough. Bad boys too.
Since the break up of the 90s Ginebra teams that included Sonny Cabatu, the Destroyer, the Tapal King, and the original extra rice brother tandem of the Loyzagas, they have lined up mostly all-star teams. Sure, they played with the same old never-say-die spirit but they certainly weren’t the team of loveable discards and has-beens that were put together (to borrow the immortal words of the late Pingoy Pengson) by “spit, blood, and Jaworski pride.”
And that brings me back to Rain or Shine. Beau Belga in particular.
Belga was the seventh overall draft pick by Purefoods in 2008. He seemed destined to be a journeyman as he bounced around for three teams (Purefoods, Air21, and Meralco) in three years in the league.
While playing for Meralco, I will not forget one game where he let his penchant for tough play get the better of him. The Bolts were in a dogfight and a flagrant foul on Belga gave the opposing team a little distance heading into the half. Inside the Meralco dugout, head coach Ryan Gregorio scolded Belga. “That is not the culture of basketball we want to inculcate here,” reprimanded Gregorio. Belga didn’t see action for the rest of the game. The next conference, he was jettisoned to Rain or Shine where he found a home.
Rain or Shine is where the tough guys go to play – Belga, JR Quiñahan, Ronie Matias when he was still around, Larry Rodriguez, and Ryan Araña. They have come a long way from a Sol Mercado-dominated offense to a team where anyone player can explode on any given day.
Playing for Yeng Guiao, you know that he is going to squeeze every bit of talent inside of you. For example, Enrico Villanueva has not been the player he was when he was playing for Guiao over at Red Bull. And there’s Jireh Ibañes. He wasn’t really a very good player in college but look at him for RoS. Incredible.
And there’s Jeff Chan as well. Chan played himself out of that label of being a poor man’s James Yap into being the man and a key player for the national team. Chan is definitely prime time.
Remember that immortal quote by Yeng Guiao when the team drafted former Ateneo star and Smart Gilas captain Chris Tiu about him now not being the only handsome guy on the team? Classic. Even those old Ginebra teams had their poster boys in Dondon Ampalayo and Vince Hizon.
If San Mig Coffee has Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis – two players with a nose for the ball – then so do the Elasto Painters with Belga, Quiñahan, and Jervy Cruz.
If San Mig can light it up from the perimeter then so can RoS with Paul Lee, Chris Tiu, Jeric Teng, TY Tang, and Chan (man, they sure are deep). Belga on occasion can stroke the trey. Araña is the team’s microwave. The man simply scores buckets.
This is a team that can hurt you in so many ways – halfcourt and in transition. From the post, in the lane, and certainly from beyond area code. And if its defense you want there’s Gabe Norwood as defensive stopper who can also fire away from the outside. Rookie center Raymond Almazan can also clog that shaded lane. Now if you want the spectacular then Lee and Alex Nuyles can supply the hang time and big time booming shots.
Guiao gives every one playing time and you can see everyone give their darn best as soon as they step on the floor.
He has won championships with three teams – Swifts, Red Bull, and Rain or Shine. The man is a miracle worker and a winner.
And his tough Rain or Shine Elasto Painters will be one heck of a match for Tim Cone’s San Mig Coffee Mixers.
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