Leo Austria has high hopes for new-look SMB

San Miguel Beer head coach Leo Austria is hoping that his team can translate its hunger for a championship into stellar performances inside the court when it begins its title series against TNT on Sunday, Aug. 21.

Photo from PBA

SMB will be parading an entirely new-look roster since its last finals appearance in 2019 with the addition of the likes of Jericho Cruz, Rodney Brondial, CJ Perez, Simon Enciso and Mo Tautuaa.

“The way I see in practice, they are very hungry but that’s something to prove during the series. Everybody wants to win a championship,” said Austria during the pre-Finals press conference last Friday, Aug. 19, at the Novotel Manila.

“In the finals it’s all about the knowledge of how to win a championship and that’s very important and I hope na hard work namin will be the difference to get this championship,” he added.

From the 2019 championship which featured the dreaded “Death Five” lineup, only three players remain with the team, namely Marcio Lassiter, June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross. SMB let go of Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos and then-reliable backup Christian Standhardinger.

Terrence Romeo is still with the team this Philippine Cup but was sidelined by a slipped disc injury and hasn’t played a single game for the Beermen in the entire conference.

The torch is now at the hands of the SMB’s newly brewed lineup whose performance in the elimination was reminiscent of the old dominant days of the Beermen during the five-peat run.

Perez, who emerged as one of the team’s most potent weapons, while admittedly feeling the nerves of his first-ever finals appearance, expressed his readiness to do everything he can to help SMB win its first championship in a long while.

“Kinakabahan po ako, syempre very excited po ako na makakapaglaro na ako sa Finals. For sure hindi sya madali para makuha yung championship and gagawin namin lahat ng game plan ni coach, yung best namin para makuha yung championship,” said Perez.

SMB’s spark plug off the bench Jericho Cruz shared the same thoughts as he plays against former team TNT.

“Ang goal lang namin is to win the championship, ‘yun lang naman yung pinaka main goal namin either we play TNT or kung sino man yun lang yung goal namin ngayon,” said Cruz.

“Credit din sa TNT, alam namin na di siya ganun kadali, with their coach, yung players nila they have veterans, may mga young (guys), kami as a team we’ll play together and hopefully we can win the championship,” he added.