By JONAS TERRADO
San Miguel Beer is bracing for a tough encounter with TNT and its prized rookie Mikey Williams in their upcoming PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series.
Williams will be one of the players to watch in the marquee matchup which is why the Beermen coach Leo Austria and his staff could be in for a difficult time trying to map out ways to limit the Tropang Giga guard.
“Mikey Williams is one of the best players in the PBA right now. And he gets a lot of respect, not just from us, but from every team,” Austria said after San Miguel completed a quarterfinal sweep of NorthPort with a 100-95 win Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The super rookie delivered all-around numbers during the elimination round that enabled TNT to hold the best record of the eliminations and was ranked second behind Magnolia Pambansang Manok’s Calvin Abueva in the early race for the Best Player of the Conference award.
Austria said Williams could be the one to dictate not only the fate of his club but also the outcome of the series.
“May tendency siya to take over and he’s a great player na parang glue ng team eh. Napagdidikit-dikit niya yung mga team niya, and then makikita mo ‘yung leadership niya,” said Austria.
“And he can play a lot of minutes without thinking of his endurance. He’s always there. And if you will take a look at his touch, yung playing minutes niya eh talagang napakataas. The good thing with him is that his teammates are very comfortable with him.”
Williams will one of the prominent figures in the backcourt matchup for the series. The TNT also has its veteran leader Jayson Castro who could still provide a timely impact while backup Kib Montalbo’s play on both ends could be crucial as well.
SMB, however, does have the star power with CJ Perez, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot and Terrence Romeo, who made his return in Game 2 of the NorthPort series after missing the last three games due to an Achilles injury.
“Mahaba-habang series kaya siyempre, sa amin naman, bibigay lang talaga namin yung best effort namin sa game,” said Perez, who will also pose problems for TNT. “Kilala naman natin yung TNT, talagang napaka-solid nila sa depensa and sa offense so kailangan namin paghandaan yun.”
SMB blew past TNT in their elimination round meeting, 83-67, last Sept. 8, but expect a war of attrition in the semis series.