Basketball

Buried in B-MEG’s bench, Maierhofer expected to blossom at Ginebra

AKTV/Paolo Papa

With his trade to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, Rico Maierhofer is expected to get the exposure to become one of the league’s best big men.

On Wednesday, the PBA approved a trade that sent B-MEG’s Maierhofer and Barako Bull’s Allein Maliksi to Ginebra. In return, Barako received Jimbo Aquino, a 2013 first round pick, and a 2012 second round pick from Ginebra, while B-MEG received Yancy de Ocampo and a 2012 second round pick from Barako.

Maierhofer’s former coach, Tim Cone, is glad that the athletic former La Salle forward would finally get the minutes he deserves.

“I’m very happy for Rico,” said Cone, who took over the reins of the B-MEG Llamados prior to the season. “The concern was getting him to a place where he would get the playing time to develop.”

Cone said that B-MEG could not provide Maierhofer that opportunity, because he was backing up perennial all-stars.

“With us, he was stuck playing behind [two-time Most Valuable Player] James [Yap] at the three, and [Marc Pingris] at the four,” said Cone. “I’m hoping at Ginebra he can get his playing time up to 30 minutes a game.”

After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2010, Maierhofer looked poised for a breakout year last season. With B-MEG’s frontline depleted because of injuries to Pingris, Kerby Raymundo, and Rafi Reavis, Maierhofer got a lot of playing time in last year’s Philippine Cup, and he responded by averaging, for the tournament, 9.6 rebounds (5th in the league) and 1.2 blocks (4th) — leading the Llamados in both categories.

But tragedy struck in the last year’s Commissioner’s Cup, when he suffered a torn ACL injury. He has struggled in his return this season, averaging just 2.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in only 11 minutes per game.

Maierhofer figures to get more minutes with Ginebra, which has been looking for a new starting power forward since the departure of Rudy Hatfield last season. Willy Wilson has been playing well at the spot for the Gin Kings, but is considered undersized, while rookie Riel Cervantes is still raw. Wingmen KG Canaleta and JC Intal have played at the spot at times for Ginebra in small-ball alignments.

In trading Maierhofer, the Llamados received veteran center de Ocampo, whom Cone expects to help out in the frontcourt.

“We’re hoping Yancy can be another piece of our puzzle by being a legitimate center in our system, and allowing Rafi and Ping to play more time at their natural position [at power forward].”

Still, Cone said that the primary consideration for the deal was Maierhofer.

“This trade was really about finding the right place for Rico to grow.”

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