Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso liked the energy and excitement he saw from the faces of the Aces, who finally got to practice together last Thursday at the Batangas City Sports Center.
"It felt really good being on the court again and being together in the flesh was even better. You can tell there was a natural energy from everyone because of the excitement of being back," Cariaso shared to ESPN5.
Showing up with a mixture of veterans and young players, Alaska is looking to compete well in the post-Vic Manuel era. Manuel, the veteran forward who spent seven seasons with the Aces, was dealt to Phoenix last March in exchange for backup guard Brian Heruela, along with the Fuel Masters' first-round picks in the Rookie draft this year and in 2022.
Heruela though, didn't end up signing with Alaska and instead, joined TNT last March in a reunion with his former team.
Still, foremost in the mind of the 48-year-old Cariaso is the importance of shaking off the rust brought about by the long period of time away from the court.
Before the resumption of team practice, the Aces had been spending much of the offseason doing Zoom video training.
The Aces mentor also stressed to his wards the importance of hard work and discipline considering that every PBA squad is working under an ever-changing circumstance brought about by the pandemic.
"I told the players that it's going to take a huge amount of discipline to get back into game form. We must approach each day with intent and complete focus," stressed Cariaso, whose team reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 PBA bubble last year.
At the moment, Cariaso said they are looking for another practice venue in Batangas.
"Batangas will be our venue but the exact location we're working on still. There's still a chance we may practice in another venue MWF (Monday-Wednesday-Friday)," he added. "Traveling there every day is not easy so for now, it's (practice) every other day."
Only Kevin Racal, who is still recuperating from the ACL injury he suffered in last year's PBA bubble, is absent from the Aces' practices. The roster includes four rookies - Ben Adamos, Taylor Browne, RK Ilagan, and Alec Stockton - and Cariaso likes what he has seen so far from the quarter.
"It's only been two days, but I like the the fight and confidence of all four rookies," he said. "They go into every drill ready to compete and not afraid. Once they get used to the pace and physicality, they will be able to showcase their strengths."