Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso is letting star power forward Vic Manuel take his time trying to get back into game shape while concentrating on aspects other than offense.
Manuel played just 15 minutes on Tuesday but was instrumental in the Aces’ early onslaught that resulted in a 120-98 rout of the Blackwater Elite, the biggest winning margin after 11 days in the PBA bubble.
Though averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds through four games in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center, Manuel is still in the process of regaining his form.
For Cariaso, it is something that doesn’t worry him much.
“I think yung pinakamahirap during the early part of this bubble is really conditioning,” Cariaso said. “Like all the other teams, that’s also a struggle for us. As much as you do some Zoom workouts, iba yung conditioning mo when you’re on the basketball court. Iba yung timing, iba yung flow so he’s still trying to get that back.
“I’m trying not to put that burden and expect him to play 30 minutes every game, even if I wanted to do kaya lang di pa niya kaya,” Cariaso added. “So slowly, we’re kinda making him understand that timing’s in there, make sure he’s active on defense, make sure he’s rebounding and then yung offense, I hardly talk about offense with him so you know his capabilities.”
It also helps that the Aces have been getting solid contributions from their younger big men, namely rookie Barkley Ebona and Abu Tratter.
Ebona scored a season-high 24 points against Blackwater while Tratter is averaging 11.8 points and 6.0 rebounds this season.
The rout of Blackwater was Alaska’s second in a row after opening the conference with losses to TNT and Meralco. Up next for Alaska is unbeaten Rain or Shine on Thursday.