After nearly a year out of commission, veteran guard RR Garcia is seen to play a leadership role on a Rain or Shine Elasto Painters quintet looking into the future, according to head coach Caloy Garcia.
The elder Garcia, who is presently with Gilas Pilipinas in Beijing for the classification round of the ongoing FIBA World Cup of Basketball, has been keeping tabs on the 29-year-old Zamboanga City native since the 5'11" combo guard joined the Elasto Painters' practice a few days back.
"Since we got back (to resume preparations for the upcoming PBA Governors' Cup) I called him to join us in practice," Coach Caloy told ESPN5 in an exclusive interview during a break in the national team's preparation for their tiff against Tunisia. "Hopefully when I can get back I'll try to talk to management to see if we can work out a deal."
RR had been on the TNT KaTropa reserve list and six days after his contract expired, he showed up at the Rain or Shine practice facility in San Juan City. He was instrumental in the Elasto Painters' 103-90 victory over the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters in a preseason tune-up last Thursday and did not exhibit any signs of rust despite being on the shelf for three conferences.
"He's OK (in our system)," Coach Caloy continued. "He's been out of the game awhile, but based on how he was in practice he looks good."
RR will be looked upon to add a leadership role Coach Caloy felt they lacked, especially towards the tail end of the previous Commissioner's Cup.
"He's been an experienced player, he's been a winner," he said. "That's one of the things we lacked in the last conference. In the end, we needed leadership. Despite him not playing (for long time), he hasn't lost his game and this is good opportunity (for him to slide into that role)."
The void left by veterans such as Paul Lee and Chris Tiu has slowly translated to Rain or Shine unable to overcome that proverbial hump and regain the championship form it showed in previous years. Coach Caloy knows the importance of having a veteran who is used to stepping up-especially during the playoffs.
The addition of RR is seen as move by the Elasto Painters to gear up for the gradual rebuild of the squad which last won a title in the 2016 Commissioner's Cup. The 2019 PBA Rookie Draft has the team loaded with selections.
"We have three first round (picks)," he beamed. "We're looking at that to fill up some positions because right now I think we're only 13 (in the roster). This has been the process every time for Rain or Shine. We've always been developing the draft picks and that's where we become stronger."
With RR Garcia's role defined even before he officially signs, it appears that Coach Caloy is dead set on having the feisty playmaker mentor its young aces like Rey Nambatac, Kris Rosales and Javee Mocon. He will also be reunited with former college teammate Ping Exciminiano to form a rugged backcourt tandem that could give opposing perimeter-oriented squads a tough time beginning in the Governors' Cup. Exciminiano was recently acquired by Rain or Shine in a trade with Alaska for Maverick Ahanmisi.
ESPN5's JC Ansis contributed to this report.