by Jerome Lagunzad
While a bevy of blue-chip rookies, led by former two-time UAAP MVP Kiefer Ravena of NLEX, are eager to make their presence felt, some old-yet-still-good veterans are out to prove they still have enough gas left in the tank when the pro league’s 43rd season opens shop with the Philippine Cup tomorrow at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
But there’s also some, including a pair of former franchise players, are left out in the cold to make way for the young guns.
Four-time scoring champion Gary David is the most notable among the jobless, perhaps signaling the end of the former Lyceum star’s decorated pro league career that started in 2004.
A five-time PBA All-Star who also made it to the Mythical First Team twice, David, now 39, last suited up for Mahindra Floodbuster (currently known as Kia Picanto) on a one-year deal but was waived earlier last May.
Also left without a job is his fellow one-time Best Player of the Conference awardee Mac Cardona, who played briefly for GlobalPort in last season’s Governors Cup.
Cardona, now 36, made a name for himself at Talk ‘N Text, which he helped clinch the 2008 Philippine Cup crown, and even served as Meralco’s go-to-guy before he suffered a sudden dip on his performance at the Road Warriors’ camp.
The former La Salle star guard made headlines – for all the wrong reasons, including drug overdose.
However, he recovered quick enough and started his comeback by way of Zark’s Burgers in the PBA D-League Foundations Cup last July.
Stocky guard Denok Miranda, drafted two rungs higher than Cardona at third overall in the 2005 rookie draft, also failed in his bid to barge into powerhouse San Miguel Beer’s lineup, leaving him as one of notable free agents for the meantime.
Miranda, 35, who has a pair of PBA titles tucked under his belt, previously saw action for the Blackwater Elite last season, primarily serving as the guiding light to promising playmakers Roi Sumang and Nard Pinto.
While some left, there’s also those who are coming back, foremost is Alaska’s new recruit Ronald Pascual, once considered as one of the premier Three-and-D wingmen during his productive stint with San Sebastian in NCAA.
Fil-Palestinian big man Yousef Taha, after a brief retirement, will make another tour of duty with the Batang Pier while 2003 top overall pick Mike Cortez looks to make a fresh start with the Elite.
Elder statesmen Billy Mamaril and Chico Lanete are now with the Beermen to provide quality minutes as relievers to reigning four-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo and do-it-all guard Chris Ross, respectively.
Forwards KG Canaleta, Mac Baracael and Nico Salva are eager to give the injury-hit Bolts ample help on both ends while former Letran bruiser Jam Cortes and high-flying Rey Guevarra will make a reunion of sorts with ex-Knights mentor Louie Alas at the Phoenix Fuel Masters camp.