MANILA, February 25, 2004  (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - At 37 and into his 17th season in the pro league, Alvin Patrimonio swore he still felt the thrill and chill as he joined the parade of players during the opening of the 2004 Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum Sunday.

And the Purefoods star could only feel the same as he plays his first game in the season today, hoping to achieve two career marks.

The four-time MVP winner could eventually reach the 15,000-point plateau and the 2,000-assist benchmark as the Hotdogs collide with the Coca-Cola Tigers in the 4:45 p.m. curtain-raiser of another twinbill at the Big Dome.

All-Filipino titlist Talk n Text and Red Bull Barako, the team with the best win-loss cumulative record last season, clash in the other game at 7 p.m.

Patrimonio needs only 14 points to become only the third member of the league’s 15,000-point scorers club after Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben and just one assist to hit the 2,000 mark.

"Para pa ring feelings ng rookie ang nararamdaman ko. I’m excited with the new season and looking forward to our first game. Lalo na ngayon dahil may hinahabol akong record," said Patrimonio, now the second oldest player in the league after Shell’s Chris Jackson who is older only by months.

Patrimonio told The STAR his playing career should have been over had he accepted an offer to run as mayor of Cainta. "Ayaw ng Purefoods management at nag-decide na rin ako na huag na muna. Next time na siguro. Pagkatapos na playing career ko, pwede ko na sigurong pasukan ang political career," he said.

The former Mapua King Cardinal hopes to win more PBA championships and he feels his team has a good chance to do that this year after embarking on a massive overhaul during the off-season.

"May tao na uli kami ngayon kahit saang position kaya tingin ko maganda ang laban namin," he said.

With seven new players in their roster, the Hotdogs get an early baptism of fire versus the Tigers — the most successful team last year with a championship run and two runner-up finishes.

Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes kept his team intact, enlisting only one new recruit in one-time PBL MVP awardee Gary David while putting Poch Junio on the injured list after undergoing operation on both knees.

In the Red Bull-Talk n Text setto, much of the attention could be on Willie Miller and what he has got in store for his former team.

If the season inaugurals attracted a crowd of more than 10,000, as much is expected in today’s play date featuring teams tipped to figure prominently in the fight for the crown.

Talk n Text became an even more formidable team with its acquisition not only of Miller but also of 6-foot-8 slotman Yancy de Ocampo.

Red Bull filled in the slot vacated by Miller by acquiring the services of NCAA Division I veteran campaigner Denver Lopez.

Imports to strut their stuffs today are Purefoods’ Lenny Cooke, Coca-Cola’s Mark Sanford, Red Bull’s Carlos Wheeler and Talk n Text’s Randy Holcomb.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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