by Jonas Terrado
The Alaska Aces are tempering expectations ahead of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign despite bouncing back from two dismal conferences last season by reaching the quarterfinals of this year’s Philippine Cup.
“Mahirap talagang sabihin pero panibagong umpisa nanaman kaya level-to-level lang naman,” said Aces star Calvin Abueva when asked if they have already got back to their winning ways after failing to make the playoffs in the two import-laden conferences in the 2016-17 season.
Alaska suffered 14 straight defeats in-between the second and third conferences last season that marred a disastrous campaign coach Alex Compton described as like he was in a twilight zone.
But the Aces were able to regain their bearings in the Philippine Cup, making the playoffs as the third-best team in the eliminations but lost to the NLEX Road Warriors in the quarterfinals.
“Sobrang weird, iba (yung last season). It was crazy,” Compton said. “Last conference, we broke out of it but there were a bunch of details that we did not take care of against NLEX and they did, that’s why they beat us.
“Now, panibagong adjustment nanaman,” added the tagalog-speaking American coach, who will enter the conference fielding young Antonio Campbell as import.
Campbell, 23, was tapped through a recommendation from Alaska legend Sean Chambers, though the team admitted he’s still in the process of learning the system.
“Kailangan pa namin siyang tulungan para mas gumanda pa sistema namin,” said Abueva after Alaska’s 81-75 win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Wednesday’s tune-up match at the Upper Deck Sports Center in Ortigas.
Compton praised his import’s skill set, though he was surprised to see the former Ohio University player arrive leaner than expected. Campbell arrived 50 lbs lighter than his listed weight of 260.
“It’s not it’s a bad thing that he’s like 210 now, but he’s a good player, he’s a smart kid,” Compton said. “He’s got really good potential and if he does well, I think this is the type of guy that will be a long-term import.
“But he’s gotta do well, he’s gotta do well. And the biggest test is always that you gotta guard (Meralco import) Arinze Onuaku, you gotta guard (San Miguel star) June Mar (Fajardo). It will be a challenge,” added Compton.
Alaska makes its Commissioner’s Cup debut on April 27 against Rain or Shine at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.