The Red Bull Barakos (now known as Barako Energy Coffee Mix) made a lot of believers with their inspired plays last conference. Losing stalwarts Enrico Villanueva and Larry Fonacier from last season would have made a devastating impact on a franchise, but the Barakos are no ordinary team. Theyâ€™re made of sterner stuff.
Overcoming tremendous odds, the Barakos finished third in the conference, falling only one game short of a championship appearance. Cyrus Baguio took over the team and played like a man possessed. He was the teamâ€™s do-it-all guy, leading the team in scoring (17.72 ppg), assists (4.12 apg) and steals (1.2 spg), often wowing the viewing public with his vast array of acrobatic shots and daredevil plays.
The most surprising contribution came from journeyman forward Mike Hrabak and the energetic Kiko Adriano. Hrabak made the most of the opportunity given to him by putting up 7.86 ppg on a league-best 45.8% (55/120) from the three-point region. In tandem with Mick Pennisi, theyâ€™re probably the best shooting big men in the league. Kiko Adriano didnâ€™t play much in the preliminary games but when he was thrusted to the limelight in the semis, he didnâ€™t let the coaching staff down. He averaged a career high 11.13 ppg last conference and most importantly gave the team some lift when the teamâ€™s gunners suddenly turn cold.
Junthy Valenzuela remains to be the teamâ€™s catalyst on both ends of the court. When he plays, the Barakos are a tough team to beat. Valenzuela, however, continues to be linked to several trade rumors (one for Sunday Salvacion and another for Ronald Tubid) but the team knows how important he is in the teamâ€™s scheme of things.
[Note: It looks like Junthy Valenzuela will be headed to Brgy. Ginebra for Sunday Salvacion. According to player agent Danny Espiritu, both players will still play one game with their mother teams before they head to their new teams].
The emergence of Carlo Sharma as one of the top centers in the land has been nothing sort of phenomenal. The Barakos have done a masterful job of turning a spare to someone who can actually play and earn minutes in the rotation.
Rich Alvarez, whose basketball career has been derailed by nagging injuries, looks to be finally fit for play. He suited up for the PBA Ateneo-DLSU showdown last week and was impressive as a defensive stopper. Purefoods has expressed interest in his services but the Barakos are not budging and will only let go the ex-Ateneo Blue Eagle if they get the right deal.
Their import is former UC-Irvine standout Adam Parada, a pure-blooded Mexican. Parada is listed at 7â€™0â€ 265 lbs and according to reports, could play inside, as well as outside. Parada was among the last cuts in the Los Angeles Lakers training camp in the 2006-06 season. If Parada could make a dent in the PBA, expect the Barakos to contend for the crown.