Will Jeron Teng's arrival push San Miguel Beermen to the top?

San Miguel added Jeron Teng in free agency as it looks to break a title drought in the Commissioner's Cup. PBA Media Bureau

When Jeron Teng, the San Miguel Beermen's latest prized free agent acquisition, was asked why he chose 21 for his jersey number and not his father's old No. 10, he quickly shook his head.

"Oh, no, no," he said. "I don't want to disrespect Coach Danny (Ildefonso) and my dad (former Beerman Alvin). I'm sticking with 21, which is what I wore in college."

Teng referenced two big men from San Miguel's storied past. Ildefonso won back-to-back MVPs while leading SMB to multiple championships in the early 2000s. His father Alvin played for the franchise in the late 1980s up to the early 1990s and was part of the fabled 1989 grand slam team. Teng has a chance to follow in his father's footsteps as he joins an already loaded Beermen squad that is one of the favorites to hoist the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup title.

Teng said his father, who was nicknamed "Robocop" during his playing days, was elated when he found out that his second son would be donning the San Miguel jersey. "It's always been my dream to play for the San Miguel franchise," he said.

Like the San Miguel team of his dad's time, this Beermen is led by a dominant center who has won multiple MVPs in June Mar Fajardo. While it would be difficult to achieve the same level of success as Alvin Teng's Beermen -- during one stretch they won six of seven conference titles -- Jeron's team is stacked as well.

But unlike the San Miguel team of old, the current version has won just one title in the last six conferences -- a drought going by the franchise's lofty standards. The Beermen's lone title during that span was in the latest Philippine Cup. They haven't won a title during an import conference in over four years.

"We haven't won this (Commissioner's Cup) since (the time of) Chris McCullough," said coach Jorge Gallent.

Teng's arrival gives the team a shot at again being the league's powerhouse. While only Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Fajardo remain from their dominant reign in the mid-2010s, all three are coming off an inspiring run to the Asian Games gold medal.

"The gold medal was a confidence booster," Gallent said, while adding that the three, all well into their 30s, have rested and recovered from the grind in Hangzhou.

Another Beerman who was part of the gold medal effort, CJ Perez, reported back to practice earlier than expected.

"I guess he got bored in the house," Gallent joked. "But CJ's fresh. He's young, he's fresh."

San Miguel has already made a change in their roster, replacing Tyler Stone with Ivan Aska as their import. Stone reportedly flew home to be with his wife and newborn baby.

Gallent said looked for a reinforcement that would give them more of an inside presence since power forward Vic Manuel will be out for six weeks with a nagging leg injury.

Aska, 33, adds to the long list of imports this conference who have played on a national team level, having represented the U.S. Virgin Islands in FIBA regional tournaments. He has extensive international playing experience, suiting up in Belgium, Greece, Israel, Korea, France, Macedonia and Puerto Rico.

At 6-foot-8, Aska will form an imposing frontline rotation with Fajardo and Mo Tautuaa. Noy Baclao and Rodney Brondial are there to provide quality minutes off the bench.

Figuring out how to juggle minutes in a loaded backcourt with Teng, Lassiter, Perez, Ross, Allyn Bulanadi, Terrence Romeo and Jericho Cruz will be a happy problem for Gallent. Ross, though, may see his playing time diminished after being appointed playing assistant coach.

"Jeron's a big addition to our team," said the coach. "I'm sure he's gonna help us a lot when he goes inside the court. He has to earn his minutes. I'm sure he's gonna get to play but he's gotta earn his minutes. If he's playing well then I'm sure he's gonna stay on the court."

In the draft, the Beermen didn't pick until the very end of the third round but managed to snag a quality forward in former Ateneo Blue Eagle Troy Mallillin. The other rookie who made the roster is YouTube sensation Kyt Jimenez, who inked a two-year pact but is still in the process of getting his clearance from his MPBL team.

"The rookies are good," Gallent noted. "They give us energy. They give us that young spirit that we need. We need guys that come off the bench and give us great energy."

Jimenez has been compared to Romeo, possessing impressive one-on-one moves and a deep repertoire on offense. Romeo himself had high praise for the rookie.

"Actually, I think might be even better than me," Romeo said in Tagalog. "The things he's doing now, I think the last time I did those was when I was 23, 24 years old."

Romeo, who is entering his 11th season and is now 31, said he's taken the young Jimenez under his wing.

"I give him advice. I told him, 'It's easy to get into the PBA. It's staying in the PBA that's hard. You have to find a way to stick around."