Major roster shake-up? Austria hints at possible team rebuild after dismal quarters exit

Published November 16, 2020, 1:59 PM

by Jeremiah Sevilla

Chris Ross is one of the senior players in San Miguel at 35 years old. PBA Images

SMART CLARK GIGA CITY–With its PBA Philippine Cup dynasty reduced to rubble, San Miguel is seeking for a fresh beginning when it tries to rebuild its ageing roster.  

The once invincible Beermen bled against the younger, highly energetic Meralco Bolts when they lost twice in the quarterfinals capped by a 90-68 beatdown on Sunday night at the Angeles University Foundation Arena. 

It was the end of an era for San Miguel as its five-year reign in the most prominent conference came to its last stand.

Coach Leo Austria bared that sweeping changes in the Beermen’s camp are expected to unfold next season. 

“Probably, we will talk with the management regarding the composition of our lineup next year dahil there’s a lot of clamor from the fans, from the basketball experts that we’re not getting any younger,” said the eight-time champion coach. 

Austria is indeed right as the core players of San Miguel’s historic five-peat in the league’s crown jewel are averaging 35 years of age.  

Arwind Santos is 39 years old followed by Alex Cabagnot (37), Chris Ross (35), Marcio Lassiter (33) while six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, who missed the bubble season due to the rehabilitation of his injured knee, turns 31 today (on Tuesday). Mo Tautuaa, who was tasked to fill the gap left by Fajardo, is 31. 

“I think we’re the oldest team in the league. Our starters are averaging 34 years old while our opponents are 27, 28, in their prime,” said the 62-year-old mentor. 

Austria also stressed that the physical demands of the shortened bubble season exposed the vulnerability of the Beermen’s ageing roster, with some of the veterans getting injured during the course of the tournament. 

Both Cabagnot and Ross were nursing hamstring injuries, Lassiter suffered from calf strain while Tautuaa was bothered by knee tendinitis. 

“If it’s a regular season we could adjust  but (the games were played) every other day and sometimes back-to-back. It’s really hard for these ‘young’ players namin.”  

Whether the next season happens under a bubble setup again or not, the three-time Coach of the Year is hoping that the management will favor the wish and insert some young knees to the team come the next season. 

“I hope magkaroon nun (changes in the lineup) kasi we cannot survive dahil all the teams are getting better and better while their young players are getting some experience. They can (eventually) catch up to the talent that we have. And when it comes to energy they have the advantage especially if we don’t have June Mar.”