<
>

Terrence Romeo sprains ankle in pre-season game after freak accident

San Miguel is hoping it has dodged a bullet when Terrence Romeo undergoes evaluation for a right ankle sprain he sustained during the team's game against Alaska in the Phoenix Super Basketball Tournament on Friday.

Romeo suffered the injury immediately after beating the halftime buzzer with a fadeaway jumper as his foot landed on a stretching machine parked near the baseline. Teammates later carried the 27-year-old guard off the floor.

"I think I sprained it. I also heard a pop when my foot hit the bike. I hope it's nothing too serious," he said.

That basket put SMB up 37-33 at the half, but the Beermen failed to sustain the momentum in the second half and later dropped a close 81-79 decision to the Aces.

Romeo, who finished with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes, said he'll see a doctor in the afternoon to assess his foot.

SMB concedes it can't lose another member of its backcourt as it already dealt with the absence of Marcio Lassiter, who missed the entirety of the team's winless campaign in the mini tournament with a broken nose.

"The good thing is after this game, the swelling wasn't that huge. That means it's only a regular sprain. And then we're really knocking on wood and we're hoping that nothing bad happens to us anymore because we're hobbled," said coach Leo Austria.

"We have no Marcio and we have no Terrence, who we all know are our key players when it comes to small ball. But I think come opening time, I'm sure they can play."

Austria said that Lassiter is set to return sometime next week.

"Marcio next week will start his shooting and probably an hour last week, he joined practice with us. The good thing is it's only a broken nose and nothing on his lower extremities, and he could run. We really missed him, especially in his tournament," Austria admitted.

The coach also provided an update on June Mar Fajardo, who is in Manila still in the early stages of recovering from a complete fracture on his right tibia.

"He is prevented (from walking) because we need the affected area of his shin to heal. We don't want to disrupt (the healing process). Maybe after two months we will see if he will be permitted by the doctor to walk," he shared.

"But as far as my knowledge is concerned, he's in high spirits. Actually the last time, he told me, 'Coach, I'll be back soon. Don't worry, we're still going to be together for a long time.' That's good news for me. We're praying for his speedy recovery."

Austria conceded that San Miguel is still trying to figure out a different identity without the rehabilitating June Mar Fajardo in the fold.

"I think everybody misses June Mar," Austria said. "But I told them before that nobody could help us except ourselves. Everybody should step up."

The struggles were in plain view last week, where the Beermen failed to nab a single win in three games during the tournament, a week after opening its preseason with a convincing win against Rain or Shine in a tune-up.

"Actually before this pocket tournament, we had a good game against Rain or Shine defensively. Offensively, I think we have a lot of players who can score. But of course, in the last three games the defense we applied in our first tune-up game was not visible 100 percent," Austria noted. "And that's what we did in the last three weeks: we put a premium on defense, but come game time, it was different."

Austria still characterized the team's run in the tournament as beneficial and explained that the losses were brought in part by his "experimental" approach of giving new players extended looks in an attempt to possibly mix and match these pieces with the existing core for the upcoming PBA season.

Minutes were spread evenly across the new Beermen in rookies Wendell Comboy and Daniel de Guzman, newly-traded big man Russel Escoto and free agents Gelo Alolino and Bambam Gamalinda during the pocket tournament.

"In the last three or four tuneup games, we never had a good combination because I'm trying to do some experimental moves because I want to see some players who are coming from other teams," he said. "But I'm so thankful for this pocket tournament because I was able to have a chance to have some experiment and to know those players new to the team."

The tourney also gave Austria a chance to address what else needs to be improved on by Mo Tautuaa, who averaged only 10.6 points on 42.8 percent shooting to go with 6.6 rebounds in those three games.

"I told him to assert more because he's the only big man who could help us in getting scores from the shaded area," said the coach, who was seen talking to the big man after the loss to the Aces. "We will try our best for us to have a threat in the post because normally, that's our setup with June Mar. Our shooters cannot shoot if our big men cannot score in the shaded area. If our big man can score in the shaded are, he could attract some double teaming, enough for our shooters to get an open shot in the perimeter."