‘Familiarity will work to my advantage’, says Leo Austria as tall South team looks for payback in PBA All Star

Other than just having the size at the front court, South coach Leo Austria feels his familiarity with several players in the team will work to his advantage when they clash with the North in the main event of the PBA’s mid-season classic on Sunday.

Other than June Mar Fajardo and playmaker Chris Ross, who currently play for him at San Miguel, Austria noted that he also coached Asi Taulava, Joe Devance, James Yap and Jericho Cruz in the past.

Taulava was actually Austria’s top big man when San Miguel Beer captured the Asean Basketball League championship in the 2013 season.

The 58-year-old SMB mentor also selected Devance as the PBA’s top rookie pick in 2007 when he was still handling Welcoat.

Yap, Star’s resident superstar, also played under him during their Welcoat days in the Philippine Basketball League, while Cruz saw action for Austria at Adamson in the UAAP.

“Ang maganda dito, yung (South) team ko marami akong naging players.  Si Asi sa ABL, si June Mar sa ABL at San Miguel, si James Yap sa Welcoat sa PBL, and the si Joe Devance, ako kumuha nun sa Welcoat tapos si Chris Ross player ko, at si Jericho Cruz player ko din dati,” he said.

“I’m more comfortable with them and magkakaintindihan siguro kami,” added Austria.

And while he would have wanted to push the tempo come Sunday against the guard-dominated North team of coach Yeng Guiao, Austria said he’ll probably utilize his big front court most of the time.

“Nakikita ko naman yun eh (running game) dahil most of the time sanay si coach Yeng sa maliliit na players, and sabi niya, uso yung small ball,” said the soft-spoken 3-time PBA champion coach.

“Pero sanay naman ako na may malalaki eh at ganun lang ang labanan eh. Gusto ko naman tumakbo but I have to change my philosophy dahil ang mga players ko di naman mananakbo eh, so bakit mo patatakbuhin?” he said. “Kailangan power play.”

In last year’s edition, Austria coached the North, steering the team to a thrilling 166-161 win over the South in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Terrence Romeo erupted for 37 points en route to being named the PBA All Star MVP. – Richard Dy