The Alaska Aces were one game away from making it into the championship round and that is enough reason to feel optimistic about this team. Willie Miller who was nearly unstoppable in several stretches of the tournament, suddenly became ice cold (only 10 points) in the seventh and deciding game of their semis match up against the eventual champions Sta. Lucia Realtors but he will be back. Miller is too good and too talented to be destructed by this offensive meltdown.
The offseason brought Ateneo alums LA Tenorio and Larry Fonacier to the Acesâ€™ fold. They are expected to bring fire and intensity to the teamâ€™s otherwise dull backcourt. The trade costs coach Tim Cone and the Aces no less than the teamâ€™s premier point guard Mike Cortez and promising big man Ken Bono but with Tenorio handling the break, the Aces are expected to run more and play a fast-paced ballgame. Fonacier gives the Aces a terrific perimeter shooter, a weapon the team never had since the days of Jojo Lastimosa and Roel Gomez.
The team got a surprise lift last conference from ex-Negros Slashers bookend forwards Reynel Hugnatan (11.74 ppg) and John Ferriols (9.74 ppg). They are fierce competitors and genuine inside bangers although both are different in ways they attack the rim. While the team waits for Sonny Thoss to develop into a top tier slotman, rookie JR Quinahan provided some glimpses of potential with his crazy combination of soft hands and shotblocking ability. Still, he is considered to be too raw and inexperienced to be considered a factor down low.
Obviously, this is what coach Tim Cone had in mind when he initially eyed the burly 6â€™9â€ 255-lb ex-Kansas Jayhawk Jeff Graves to play for the team in the coming Fiesta Cup. Graves is a true banger who was once considered an NBA prospect. Alas, Graves got injured and left the Aces scouring for another prospect.
In the end, the team decided to sign ex-Talk N Text import Randy Holcomb. Holcomb, 6-9 250 lbs, made a good impression during his stint with the Phonepals two years ago, putting together averages of 25.5 ppg and 13.5 rpg in 6 games before getting replaced by eventual Best Import awardee Jerald Honeycutt. Holcolmb will be reunited with Alaska assistant coach Joel Banal who was his coach at Talk â€™N Text. Holcomb is expected to play good, solid minutes. He is unspectacular but does all the things you want to do on the floor â€“ characteristic of many Alaska imports in the past.
You can bet that the Aces will do everything they can to defend their Fiesta Cup crown.