MANILA, AUGUST 30, 2006 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - The H-Bomb is back and newly designated Ginebra San Miguel coach Joseph Uichico canít wait to detonate Rudy Hatfield when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season opens Oct. 1.

Hatfield quietly flew into town from the US with agent Bill Rosmarino late Monday night. Yesterday, he began talks with Ginebra officials on a playing contract and was introduced to his new teammates by Uichico.

"Iím thrilled to be back," said Hatfield who played his last PBA game for Coca-Cola on Oct. 17, 2004 and left Manila last year, exasperated by the long wait for his citizenship clearance.

The night before his departure, his citizenship was affirmed by the Department of Justice. But Hatfield had already made up his mind to leave, having given up his condo and sold his car.

It took close to a year before Hatfield decided to return here. While in the US, he enrolled in a pro wrestling school in Boston but didnít pursue it. Instead, he joined a fire academy and earned a license as a fireman after finishing some courses in medical school.

Hatfield said a few days before packing his bags for Manila, he received a job offer from a fire station. But the itch to play in the PBA again had gotten under his skin ó he couldnít scratch it if he tried.

"Actually, at this stage of my life, I prefer playing basketball," said Hatfield.

From the airport, Hatfield bunked in with buddy Eric Menk.

"I still donít know whatís going to happen," said Hatfield. "Iím still in the process of getting a cellphone. Iím hoping to sign a two-year contract then Iíll take it from there. All I know is Iím so excited to be playing with Eric and the Ginebra team."

Hatfield, 28, said heís ready to play.

"Iíve been keeping in shape, going to the gym five to six days a week," said Hatfield. "Iím in the best condition I can be without playing."

Hatfield said he found out Ginebra failed to make it to the semifinals of the recent Brunei Cup.

"I heard from Eric they had a tough time because the team wasnít complete," said Hatfield. "The guys played every day and the key players pushed themselves to the limit. I wish I couldíve been there to help out in any way."

Ginebra won its first game in the Brunei Cup then lost four in a row to join Jordan out of the Final Four. The Kings played without injured Jay-Jay Helterbrand, Mike Holper and Rodney Santos.

Hatfield said if ever national coach Chot Reyes wants him for the Philippine team, heís available.

"You know me, Iíll fight for the country," said Hatfield. "But I donít want to force myself in. The team has good chemistry now, what with the Brunei Cup championship they just won. Besides, I might be too old for the team. Still, if coach Chot calls for me, Iíll be ready."

I was tempted to ask Hatfield about his love life and whether a reconciliation with actress Rufa Mae Quinto is in the offing.

But I didnít want to push my luck. Thatíll be for a future column, if Hatfield obliges.

Uichico said Hatfield will play a key role in Ginebraís future.

"We introduced him to the team (yesterday) and everyone was excited like he is," said Uichico. "He has been gone for quite some time but his love and passion for the game will add to the Ginebra never-say-die spirit."


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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