PBA Opening Week Rookie Watch

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PBA Opening Week Rookie Watch

Post by DMac on Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:49 am

PBA Opening Week Rookie Watch

By Charlie Cuna

week into the PBA's 38th Season, four playdates and seven games down,
let's make an early assessment on the performances of the newbies, the
rookies, some of the biggest reasons PBA fans were eagerly anticipating
their respective teams' first couple of games. Although one week, and
only one or two games, obviously cannot determine how things will
eventually pan out for these fellows, it is still interesting to see how
these young men dealt with their first exposure to the bright lights of
the pro league.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel's Chris Ellis (6th pick) and Keith Jensen (8th)
— They played very well on opening day versus GlobalPort. While the
veterans carried them to the win, high-flying Ellis and hardworking
Jensen showed immediately that they can compete in the PBA. Ellis
fouled out of the game, but showed crazy athleticism and a nose for the
ball, finishing with 12 points and 3 blocks, showing his defensive
potential. The problem though is that he had the tendency to go for
every block, which led to his foul trouble and eventual
disqualification. He'll learn to pick his spots as the season goes on.
Jensen had 13 points off the bench, hitting inside and out, and
surprised many who did not expect as much from him as they did of Ellis.

Chris Ellis showed his athleticism but fouled out in his PBA debut. (PBA Images)

Sunday night versus Rain or Shine, Ellis played 25 minutes, but only
scored a bucket and grabbed 3 boards. He committed 5 fouls, almost
fouling out. Jensen also had just 2 points, a couple of free throws, in
only 12 minutes. The difference in this game was that it was tight all
the way, unlike the rout of GlobalPort in their first game. Coach
Tanquincen turned to his veterans in such a close game and the two
rookies had to take a backseat. After two games, they both get a
passing grade for sure. The Barangay is excited about them, and
rightfully so.

GlobalPort's Vic Manuel (9th), Jason Deutchman (10th), and AJ Mandani (14th)
— Manuel, whom Coach Glenn Capacio said would compete for Rookie of the
Year Honors, had a terrible offensive night versus Ginebra, playing
only 18 minutes and scoring just 3 points. He had the same minutes, but
shot better (4 of 5 fgs) and scored 9 points versus Air21 last Sunday.
He has clearly struggled and will have to adjust his game in the PBA.
Let's reassess after a few more weeks.

The 6'6" Deutchman also had a terrible debut with only 2 points and 6
rebounds, and a crucial missed lay-up as his team rallied versus
Ginebra. He upped his game last Sunday versus Air21, scoring 14 points
with two three-pointers, and again grabbing 6 rebounds. He is clearly
more comfortable offensively as a perimeter player. Six rebounds a game
is actually pretty good for a rookie big man.

As for Mandani, he scored 13 points and had 3 assists late in the
Ginebra game. He played well in a game that was out of reach. In a
closer game yesterday, he only scored 2 points, but had 5 rebounds and 5
assists, showing his all-around worth. Curiously, after two games, he
has been the most impressive rookie so far among Global Port's three.

GlobalPort's Jason Deutchman and Air21's Yousef Taha. (PBA Images)

Air21's Yousef Taha (11th) and Simon Atkins (21st)
Expectations for both these rookies are not as high as others, so they
did not really have to produce too much to make a contribution. The
6'7" Taha had a modest 2 points, 4 rebounds and a block in his first
game versus Barako in 16 minutes. He tallied 4 points, 12 rebounds, 3
steals and a block yesterday versus GlobalPort and earned Player of the
Game honors. His size is an asset for sure, and he provides a big
obstacle in the middle. Rebounds and blocks are what Coach Pumaren
wants from him, and he has provided some of both so far.

Atkins was scoreless but had 3 rebounds and 2 assists as a back-up
point guard in his debut. He scored 5 points in only 10 minutes
yesterday. Low as his statistics are, they may be enough for his coach
since he is used as a deep reserve, primarily to spell the lead guards
for a minute or two.

Barako Bull Energy's Dave Marcelo (12th) — While Barako
drafted a bunch of players (Lester Alvarez at 15th, Emman Monfort at
16th, and Woody Co 18th, and three more who did not make the team), only
Marcelo was used in the Colas' first game last week versus Air 21. He
only played 7 minutes and ended up with 2 free throws and 2 rebounds.
He missed both his field goal attempts. On this veteran-laden team,
even a versatile talent like Marcelo will have a hard time finding
minutes. He will be used in spot duty, but he will always be ready for
the call.

Petron Blaze's June Mar Fajardo (1st), Alex Mallari (3rd)
The first overall pick Fajardo had enormous pressure before his team's
opening game versus Rain or Shine, and nerves and inexperience indeed
got to him, even as he finished with 9 points, 13 rebounds (7 offensive)
and 2 blocks. With his height and heft, fans expected him to toy with
opposing big men, and when this did not happen, branded him as a bust
right after his first game. The truth is, if he can average his
statline in his 1st game, then that would be more than adequate. He
will only get better, considering the athleticism he has at his size.
And, as many have said, you can't teach height. He will have monster
stats in games to come, guaranteed.

June Mar Fajardo had a rough time against Rain or Shine's physical defense. (PBA Images)

Mallari only played 16 minutes in his first game. He hit his first
attempt from 3-point land, but did not score again in two more tries.
He did have 3 rebounds and 2 assists, showing he can help in more than
one category. The problem he faces is how many minutes he will get in
the talented and crowded Petron lineup. I predicted he would be the
rookie to watch this season, but if he can't get on the floor
consistently, we may not get to watch him much. Hopefully, his stints
get longer as he shows everyone his outstanding talents as a big lead

Rain or Shine's Chris Tiu (7th) — Well, that was short. The
most-awaited rookie debut came to an abrupt halt after crowd favorite
Tiu was on the floor for only 6 minutes. He had been nursing an injury
to his hamstring and he aggravated it after hitting 1 out of 3 attempts,
and already dishing out 2 assists. He will be out for a few weeks'
rest and get another chance to show the adoring fans how he can perform
on a PBA court when all is well.

Meralco's Cliff Hodge (4th), Kelly Nabong (17th), and JP Belencion (20th)
— I was able to cover Hodge's first game in the PBA versus Talk 'N Text
last Friday, and he had a splendid debut. He took too many outside
shots, and missed some crucial ones, but overall, he played 44 of a
possible 53 minutes (the game went into overtime), scored 19 points,
grabbed 8 rebounds, dished 3 assists, stole once, and did not have a
single turnover. He also led all players in floor burns and number of
dives on the hardcourt for the looseball. His shooting percentage from
the field (8-22, 36%) and the line (3-9, 33%) must improve, but that was
just his first game. He had the best first game from among all rookies
this season.

Cliff Hodge had 19 points in his PBA debut. (PBA Images)

It was strange for Coach Ryan Gregorio not to use the 6'6" and
muscular Nabong at all. He was dressed but sat on the bench as Gregorio
opted to use Jay-R Reyes and Hodge up front for most of the game, with
other veterans helping out. It was Belencion who got 5 minutes of
action at guard, as he got a rebound and 2 steals, but missed all 3 of
his shot attempts.

San Mig Coffee's Aldrech Ramos (5th) and Jewel Ponferrada (13th)
— San Mig clobbered the Alaska Aces last week, but both rookie big men
hardly got any playing time. Ramos played just 10 minutes, but hit all
his three shots for 6 points. However, he turned the ball over twice.
Ponferrada came in for a minute of garbage time and only came up with a
turnover and a personal foul. Similar to Marcelo of Barako, these two
will find it hard to get minutes due to the number of capable big men on
their team. Ramos, however, can hit outside shots consistently and
will probably be called upon to do just that every now and then.

Alaska's Raffy Reyes (19th) — Listed at 5'10" but smaller
than that, Reyes showed some of the stuff that made him a surprise draft
choice this year. He made his only two attempts from the field, both
three pointers, for 6 points in 13 minutes of action. He also had 2
steals. He is of course a deep backup guard for the Aces, but he will
not make too many mistakes and has proven he can hit the PBA three. The
son of former national squad and San Miguel Beer team member Elmer
Reyes is in the Celino Cruz, Rudy Lingganay mode — nothing spectacular
but often reliable. We will talk about Calvin Abueva when he comes on
board, possibly after his San Sebastian Stags win the NCAA title.

Talk 'N Text does not have any rookie on its roster.

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