Junthy now finally a Gin King

When it looked like the deal wouldn’t materialize, the Brgy. Ginebra Kings reached an agreement with the Red Bull Barakos to acquire spitfire Junthy Valenzuela in exchange for multiple draft picks. The Gin Kings originally offered shooter Sunday Salvacion for the crack Red Bull guard but in the end, the Barakos settled for a 2009 2nd round and a 2010 1st round picks.  

The trade leaves Mick Pennisi as the only remnant of the original Red Bull team who took the PBA plunge in 2000. The 6’2″ swingman has not played for any team other than Red Bull whether in the professional or amateur ranks. The Bogo City native played for the Red Bull amateur team in the PBL prior to his elevation to the Red Bull Barako team in the pros. He was part of the 6 amateurs (Kerby Raymundo, Davonn Harp, Lordy Tugade, Jimwell Torion and Bernard Tanpua) tapped by the team as its direct hire in 2000.

The trade brings a lot of depth to the Gin Kings’ backcourt, now composed of Ronald Tubid, Mark Caguioa, Jayjay Helterbrand, Sunday Salvacion, Chris Pacana, Paul Artadi and Valenzuela. The Gin Kings have long coveted Valenzuela and releasing two draft picks for the defensive whiz speaks volumes of how highly the coaching staff and management thinks of him as a player.

Junthy has been the unquestioned leader of the Red Bull pack, leading the team to a pair of championship appearance in the 2005-06 season, earning himself a place in the PBA Mythical First Five for the first time in his career. In the previous season, he was named to the league’s All-Defensive team.

He played sparingly in the team’s final two games as coach Yeng Guiao elected not to use him in the light of the impending trade. Valenzuela averaged 6.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.5 apg and 1.0 spg in only 13 minutes of action.

The loss of Valenzuela, on the other hand, will not likely how much impact on the success of the Red Bull Barakos. The team is still in third place (2-1 W-L) in the Fiesta Cup and it is the system, not players, that makes the Red Bull basketball team go. To fill the slack left by Junthy, the team reactivated “Big Mac” Mark Andaya to the 14-man roster.

The root of the matter is that Red Bull traded Junthy because they couldn’t pay him. Junthy’s contract is due to expire next year (2009) and has been haggling for an extension, which the team apparently has refused. It is not clear if the deal included cash considerations but with the way the Red Bull Barakos balked at absorbing Sunday Salvacion’s contract, it is pretty evident that the team is trying to save some money (or gaining at the same time). I will not be surprised if the Red Bull trading machine suddenly resurfaces next season and see team stalwarts such as Cyrus Baguio, Carlo Sharma, Mick Pennisi and Mike Hrabak getting “sold” anew. Anyway, that’s how life goes on in PBA circles. Coach Yeng Guiao is a master of this. Expect a new superstar to emerge from the Barako camp.