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Baptism of fire

A pair of rookie coaches will be under the microscope when TNT Tropang Giga and Phoenix Super LPG clash in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Barely a week since officially taking over as head coach of the Fuel Masters to succeed Topex Robinson, Jamike Jarin will get an early test when they take on a crack Tropang Giga squad in the 5:45 main encounter following the 3 p.m. battle between Blackwater and NLEX in the first game.

Jarin, a decorated mentor in the high school and collegiate ranks, served as assistant of Robinson starting when the league staged its first ever bubble tournament in Clark three years ago.

But their partnership was cut short when Robinson accepted the offer to become the head coach of De La Salle University after failing to make it past the eliminations in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines under veteran tactician Derrick Pumaren.

At Phoenix, Jarin faces a massive challenge of leading the squad to a strong finish in the post-Matthew Wright era.

He, however, will have a competent crew to accomplish the mission with import Du’Vaughn Maxwell returning for another tour of duty to settle some unfinished business.

Maxwell, a 31-year-old journeyman from Hampton, saw action for the Fuel Masters as replacement import for Paul Harris and Dominic Sutton last year.

He played in just four games with Wright still serving as main gunner.

With Wright already playing for the Kyoto Hannaryz in the Japanese B. League, Maxwell will now have the key to the Phoenix offense together with young guards Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano.

It didn’t take long for the young guns to impress the hardworking American.

“When it comes to talent in our team, our young players, the talent is there. The experience is where I can come in, somebody who has already played overseas for years,” Maxwell told Daily Tribune in a conversation.

“Mark my words, you see players like Tyler Tio, you see a high-class professional. I’m happy that I’m able to catch him younger.”

Like Phoenix, TNT will also parade a fresh face in its bench.

The Tropang Giga acquired the services of PBA legend Jojo Lastimosa, who will play dual roles of being the head coach and team manager.

With his appointment, longtime coach Chot Reyes will be able to concentrate on his duties as mentor of Gilas Pilipinas, which is preparing for the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

The Philippines will play Lebanon on 24 February, then will take on Jordan on 27 February.

For Lastimosa, pinch-hitting as head coach is no longer new as he also served as interim mentor of NLEX when Yeng Guiao was tapped to coach Gilas Pilipinas for the 2019 World Cup.

Lastimosa will not be the only new guy getting more involved as the Tropang Giga also hired a Serbian coach, Slavoljub Lale Gorunovic as active consultant.

They will also parade a new import in Jalen Hudson, who played for the National Basketball Association G League before seeing action in Israel, Greece and Germany.

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