Tropang TNT will bank on Mo Tautuaa, imports on Govs Cup with decimated roster

Tropang TNT could be opening the PBA Governors Cup with a decimated roster.

Already without veterans Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo and rookie Troy Rosario, who are on loan to Gilas Pilipinas, TNT is still missing the services of key players Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser.

Fonacier, one of TNT’s resident shooters, had bone spurs removed over a month ago, while the 6-6 Williams suffered a sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) on his left knee and will be out for 6 weeks.

Ganuelas-Rosser, the athletic sophomore wingman, had surgeries on his right ankle and left big toe also last May.

TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio said the absence of the team’s veterans should serve as a challenge for the Tropa’s supporting cast led by rookie big man Moala Tautuaa.

“We were telling them (bench players) to be ready because this could be their chance while they (Fonacier and Co.) recover,” Villavincencio told FOX Sports.

Tautuaa, last year’s top rookie pick, was active on offense in TNT’s 127-114 loss to Barangay Ginebra in their practice game on Wednesday at the CCF gym.

The 6-foot-7 Fil-Tongan led TNT with 36 points and got away with numerous breakaway dunks during the game in the absence of injured Ginebra big man Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, who is currently playing for Gilas.

On the other hand, American import Mario Little, a late replacement for Jason Maxiell, who went beyond the 6-5 height limit, along with Asian reinforcement Michel Madanly are expected to do a lot more for a team that failed to defend its Commissioner’s Cup title.

TNT coach Jong Uichico said he is still feeling out Little, an NBA D-League veteran, who finished with just 13 points in the Tropa’s 114-127 defeat to Barangay Ginebra in their practice game on Wednesday at the CCF gym.

“He’s (Little) okay, but he just arrived Monday and he hasn’t been really going since after Korea, not too much 5-on-5 so it’s time to get back his rhythm,” Uichico said.

“I have to feel him out first but I think he’s both in and out, an all-around player but totally different from Maxiell that’s why we want to scrimmage more to see saan siya effective.”

Uichico said once Gilas ends its FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament campaign early next month, he’s hopeful that Castro and De Ocampo could swing back to action soon.

“Depends (on Castro and De Ocampo’s return to TNT), maybe a few days off, pero dapat kaagad kasi it’s been happening to us all the time (loan at Gilas) eh sa akin naman bumabagsak yung sisi,” stressed Uichico.

“After Gilas, they rest while we’re losing games (in past conferences), pero ganun talaga, Gilas eh, even I just decided to stay na lang (and not join Gilas in Europe),” he added. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava

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