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Chua excited to join Ginebra

Alfrancis Chua

MANILA, Philippines - After over four years away from the PBA, former Tanduay and Sta. Lucia Realty coach Alfrancis Chua can’t wait to sit on the Barangay Ginebra bench as newly-appointed consultant when the Commissioner’s Cup begins Feb. 10.

“I’m excited to be back,” said the 45-year-old Chua, reunited with his Tanduay players Eric Menk and Rudy Hatfield at Ginebra. “Who wouldn’t be excited to join the league’s most popular team? It’s an honor to work with the San Miguel group. I can’t believe it happened so quickly. I got a call from (San Miguel Corp. sports director) Noli (Eala) last week asking about my availability. Then, he called again last Wednesday. Two days later, I attended my first Ginebra practice at Xavier Gym.”

Chua said he was welcomed warmly by the coaching staff and players. “I respect coach Siot (Tanquingcen) a lot,” he said. “Coach Siot is a true professional, he knows his stuff and he’s very hard-working. His attention to detail is incredible. He’s open to suggestions from his staff and players. How I’ll fit in depends on what Coach Siot wants me to do. The way he runs the team, it’s great. I hope to be able to contribute to the team’s performance even in a small way.”

With Tanduay, Chua brought the team to four finals in six conferences but never won a championship. With Sta. Lucia, he was coach Norman Black’s assistant when the Realtors captured the 2001 Governors Cup crown. Chua later succeeded Black at the Sta. Lucia helm. Chua was also Black’s assistant at Pop Cola for two years. Before jumping to the PBA, Chua took Tanduay to nine PBL finals and bagged seven titles.

“In my first PBA conference as Tanduay head coach, we went to the finals,” said Chua. “I think Ginebra has a chance to make many more finals. I can see the team winning again. Kerby (Raymundo) makes us tough inside. He’s a go-to guy who can free up our wings. Dylan (Ababou) is young and athletic, can drive strong to the hoop and shoot the jumper. Mark (Caguioa) and Jay-Jay (Helterbrand) are stars but they don’t have a star complex. At practice, they push themselves to the limit. Their attitude is inspiring. I was surprised to find out how hard they work. I’m not sure if fans realize how valuable Mark and Jay-Jay are to the team. As for Rudy, he couldn’t believe I had joined the team when we first saw each other at practice. And when I saw Eric, we embraced like long-lost brothers. Eric just got the go-signal from doctors to play.”

Chua said his basketball philosophy is right down Ginebra’s alley. “I like explosive, exciting, up-and-down basketball which is what Ginebra plays so I think I fit right in,” he said. “As a consultant on the bench, I’ll try to give the team a little more energy. I feel the sky’s the limit for this team and I’m just so happy I can be a part of its future.”

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Chua said he’ll be back with his trademark long hair. “What a way to start the new year,” he said. “I can’t get any luckier than being invited to join Ginebra. When I was away from the PBA, I continued to be involved with basketball although I hardly watched the PBA on TV. For a while, I was the NCAA commissioner in the juniors division and worked with the technical staff in the UAAP. At the moment, I am the commissioner of the Tiong Lian league of Chinese high schools.”

Chua said he’s looking forward to the start of the second conference with import Chris Alexander. “I didn’t watch Chris when he played with Ginebra four years ago so I can’t compare how he’s playing now with how he played before,” he said. “But I can see he’s getting into game-shape. For sure, he’ll make us more competitive.”

Chua said joining the Ginebra coaching staff gives him the opportunity to learn more about the game. The assistant coaches are Allan Caidic, Juno Sauler and Art de la Cruz. “Allan’s always been my idol,” said Chua. “Juno and Art know the game well. They’re all very competent and knowledgeable. I’m excited to learn from them and share whatever ideas I have. Samboy (Lim) as our manager is another advantage for us.”

A former UST cager, Chua admitted he didn’t realize how much he missed the PBA until he showed up for his first Ginebra practice last Friday. He is married to the former Jocelyn Penaloza, his high school sweetheart, with four children, Marc Francis, 17, Kyle Francis, 15, Nathan Francis 13 and Cody Francis, 10.   

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