|After finding out about his availability, Coach Mike Reyes did not waste time in acquiring eventual Finals MVP Ping Exciminiano. Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas/Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup (file photo)|
MANILA--When Mandaue announced prior to the start of the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup Visayas leg that Ping Exciminiano and Gryann Mendoza will be part of its roster, some fans got intrigued especially with the case of Exciminiano as it was also revealed around that time that they were practicing with PBA side TNT Tropang Giga.
Eventually, both Far Eastern University alumni got to play under Coach Mike Reyes at Mandaue and became the key players in the team's championship conquest over heavy favorite Talisay.
So how did TNT and Mandaue strike what seems like the basketball version of a "loan"?
Reyes said on Thursday that it was not that difficult to acquire the two players as the ones running the Tropang Giga are no less than his brother, Chot, and nephew Josh.
"Kinontak ko kaagad si Josh. Si Josh ang kinakausap ko about that if pwedeng maglaro si Gryann sa amin," Mike Reyes said in the Usapang Sports Forum.
He then said that it was Josh who offered to have Exciminiano join Mendoza with Mandaue.
"After a day, Josh told me na OK na si Gryann. 'Isama mo na rin si Ping, Tito Mike,' sabi niya. Sagot ko, 'Oh sige. Isasama ko na rin si Ping. I just have to do some things here tapos balikan kita pag naayos ko na,'" Mike bared the conversation.
However, with Exciminiano's availability, Reyes had to make some salary room.
"Noong naging available si Ping, I had to talk to some players: 'Sorry. Upo ka muna dahil naging available si Ping," Reyes further said.
The roster tweak paid off as Mandaue completed a giant slaying in the Visayas finals against the then undefeated Talisay squad.
What made it even more impressive is that Mendoza, Exciminiano, and Alfrancis Tamsi, known for their lockdown defense in FEU and in the pros, shone brightly in offense as well.
According to Reyes, he gave them the free will to unleash the other side to their game.
"Dito sa atin, mas maluwag. You can attack and shoot. You can do what you want," he relayed what he told the Tamaraw trio.
But it was their unselfishness that stood out for him and the rest of the Mandaue lineup.
"True enough, during the practices in the early stages, the team loved them because they shared the ball to open teammates," Reyes further said.
Often overlooked for their efforts in the Luzon leagues, Exciminiano, Mendoza, and Tamsi finally got a taste of what it is like to be the main men as they led the way for the inaugural Visayas champs.
Reyes said that he will likely bring the same Mandaue lineup in the grand finals as the team awaits the champion in the Mindanao leg starting on May 30.
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