Leo Austria sees big difference between Tyler Wilkerson and AZ Reid at practice

After watching San Miguel Beer’s local players practice on Saturday, coach Leo Austria felt an air of confidence permeating within the team as they work with balik-import Arizona Reid at the oven-hot Acropolis gym in Quezon City.

Reid, who endured a long, 25-hour flight from the United States, arrived Saturday morning aboard a Philippine Airlines flight.

Although the former PBA Best Import lost his luggages during his connecting flight from New York, Reid came in to the team’s 2 p.m. practice with his customary workman-like attitude that boosted further the confidence of the San Miguel locals.

“Sa nakikita ko dito sa mga players sa practice, iba yung aura kasi welcome na welcome naman si AZ,” said Austria, shortly after the team’s light practice, in preparation for Game 4 on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

He had no doubt that the atmosphere during Saturday’s practice is completely different from the one they had to endure when Wilkerson was still the Beermen’s import.

The 3-time PBA champion coach admitted Wilkerson has turned out to be a head case since the first week of the team’s campaign in the Commissioner’s Cup.

He cited that the 6-foot-8 Wilkerson complained one too many times and insisted on doing something different in practice, a complete opposite to what Reid has done.

“Makikita mo na inspired ang mga players,” said the 57-year-old San Miguel coach.

Austria though warned his players that the arrival of Reid doesn’t guarantee victory against Rain or Shine, which still leads the PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-5 semifinal series, 2-1.

“That’s not an assurance to win a game that’s why we have to keep on telling the players we still have to work hard, but definitely, si AZ malaki ang maitutulong,” said Austria.

The Beermen played with a greater sense of urgency on Thursday in their win-or-go-home situation.

Led by Marcio Lassiter who came alive in the series by firing 30 points, an all-Filipino San Miguel team came out with all guns blazing to beat Rain or Shine, 102-98, in Game 3 as the Beermen lived to fight for another day.

Austria though expects Rain or Shine to come out with vengeance as well, especially after uncharacteristically turning the ball over 26 times in Game 3, which San Miguel converted to 35 points.

“I’m sure yung mga (Rain or Shine) players eh talagang double effort ang ipapakita, kasi yung last game namin, they were outhustled dahil very evident sa 26 turnovers nila,” noted Austria.

Austria admitted San Miguel’s miracle comeback from a 0-3 Finals hole in the Philippine Cup this season, has been mentioned by SMB fans, hoping such a feat could inspire them in their so-called “Beer-acle” effort against a 0-2 hole in the semis.

But the San Miguel coach would rather focus on the task at hand.

“Lahat ng tao yun ang nakikita (comeback from 0-3), pero ayaw namin bigyan ng emphasis yung nangyari dun dahil lahat naman aware, even Rain or Shine,” he said.

“Pero kung mangyayari yun, mangyayari yun. But again, this is another history.” – By Richard Dy

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