2019 PBA team preview: New-look Blackwater to rely on youth, speed

Alaska, Blackwater, Columbian, Ginebra previews (2:52)

Breaking down Alaska, Blackwater, Columbian, and reigning Commissioner's Cup champion Barangay Ginebra ahead of the 44th PBA season. (2:52)

ESPN5.com previews the 12 PBA teams ahead of their first games in the 2019 Philippine Cup, the kickoff conference of the new PBA season.

2017-18 Summary

  • Philippine Cup: 5-6 (10th place) -- Did not make the playoffs

  • Commissioner's Cup: 1-10 (12th place) -- Lost to Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals

  • Governors' Cup: 7-5 (6th place) -- Lost to Alaska in the semifinals


  • Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Joseph Eriobu, Abu Tratter, Paul Desiderio, Diego Dario, Matt Salem


  • John Nard Pinto, John Paul Erram, Paul Zamar

Rest of Roster

  • Mike DiGregorio, Mac Belo, Allein Maliksi, Roi Sumang, James Sena, Emil Palma, Chris Javier, Raymar Jose, Mike Cortez and Mark Cruz

Biggest thing to look out for

Blackwater's offseason moves raised the eyebrows of some PBA fans after management decided to part ways with John Paul Erram and John Nard Pinto.

Erram had blossomed into a double-double machine for Blackwater last season, averaging over 13 points, 10 rebounds and close to two shot blocks. Pinto, on the other hand, developed into a deadly playmaker as he went on to average career-high numbers of 11.3 points, 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds. They also let go of mid-season acquisition Paul Zamar, who after contributing 10.3 points, 4.0 assists and 2.9 assists was shipped to San Miguel in exchange for two future draft picks.

The Elite lost considerable experience from these offseason moves, but the positive thing here is they reloaded their roster with young blood for the 2019 season.

Bobby Ray Parks came into the team as the PBA's No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft. The only issue is the two-time ABL Local MVP won't be available until the 2019 Commissioner's Cup after being given the green light by PBA commissioner Willie Marcial to finish his contract with San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League.

Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter, selected fourth and seventh, respectively, by NLEX in the 2018 PBA Draft, were the first two newcomers on board after a three-way trade.

Added into the mix were backup center Mike Miranda from NLEX, Joseph Eriobu, free agent pick-ups Gelo Alolino and rookie Matt Salem and pint-sized guard Diego Dario.

Call it a one step forward, two steps backward move, but team owner Dioceldo Sy believes the new crop of players will make Blackwater faster and peskier on the defensive end.


Offense won't be a problem for Blackwater since the team has a number of reliable scorers like Mac Belo, Mike DiGregorio and Allein Maliksi.

Belo averaged 15 points in last season's Philippine Cup before he was slowed down by an injury during mid-season. When he recovered from the knee injury, he normed just under 10 points in the import-spiced conferences. DiGregorio and Maliksi, a four-time PBA champion, will have to be more vocal in the team and try to lead the new-look Blackwater squad.

Parks will be a major addition for the team once he joins the team in the 2019 Commissioner's Cup, that's assuming Alab goes all the way to the ABL Finals and defend its crown. His scoring, playmaking and defense can boost the Elite. Though, it will be interesting to see how he quickly adapts to the team's system and if he can contribute right away to the franchise's cause.

Without Erram's shot-blocking and rebounding, Blackwater will now have to dig deep into its frontcourt and hope that incoming sophomore Raymar Jose, along with Belo, James Sena, Eriobu and Chris Javier can combine their efforts to fill in the gap. Tratter is expected to contribute right away and try to pitch in as well.

The loss of Pinto and Zamar would also mean more minutes on the floor from Roi Sumang, a talented guard, who has barely scratched the surface of his potential in the pro league, along with Alolino. Desiderio, who is expected to take the spot of Zamar, is capable of providing instant offense and hustle.

But according to coach Bong Ramos, defense will be the Elite's trump card in their effort to build on the franchise's milestone from the 2018 Governors' Cup.