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Stats Don’t Lie: Who deserves to be named this season’s ROY?



We’re now officially done with 3/4ths of the season, as all teams have either played 10 or 11 games, with two or three left to determine placing. I think it’s about time we start taking a look at some of this year’s rookies and see who has the best chance to bag home an award at the end of the month.

At first thought, this seems like a useless exercise. After all, wouldn’t the answer to this year’s “best rookie” be Arvin Tolentino?


The Case for Arvin Tolentino

Arvin Tolentino has a penchant for breaking away from Ateneo’s system to go one-on-one

Tolentino has put up the biggest numbers amongst all rookies by far, with his statline pumped up by 5 double digit scoring games, including a season-high 20 against UP on August 6. He’s also started 9 of 11 games this season; manning the 5 spot for the ceiling-challenge Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. His current averages are at 8.83 ppg, 5.83 rpg, and 0.75 bpg on 23.25 minutes per game.

The knock on Arvin though is that he’s been slumping lately. After hitting double digits in 5 of his first 6 games, he’s mustered just 16 points in 5 games, including two eggs against UE and NU (where he only played 6 minutes). He has struggled guarding more veteran (and traditional) bigs and has a penchant for breaking away from Ateneo’s system to go one-on-one. He’s also shooting 35.6% from the field 26.9% from 3-point area, which includes 1/12 shooting during the 5-game slump.

It’s his recent struggles that have some pundits wondering whether other rookies, such as Prince Rivero or even Rev Diputado may sneak in and steal the award from the ROY front-runner.


The Case for Prince Rivero

Given the minutes, Prince Rivero will produce.

After a slow start, Rivero went on a nice string of games where he put up 8, 12, 6, 12, and 9 points. Over that same 5-game stretch, he also pulled down a combined 29 rebounds, not bad considering he came off the bench in all those games.

The big thing that stands out for me is his minutes. In that 5-game sample where he put solid figures, Prince’s playing time hovered between 14 and 23 minutes. In the 5 games where he’s scored a total of just TEN points, the most he played was 11 minutes, while he registered MPs (minutes played) of 5:20, 9:00, 4:00, and 6:00 for an average of just seven minutes per game.

For those keeping count, that comes out to:

                                            5 GAME SAMPLE SIZE

This hints to me that given the minutes, Rivero will produce. Of course, let’s always remember that Juno Sauler – who guided DLSU to the championship last season – knows what he’s doing and the lack of playing for Rivero in certain games probably has to do with matchups more than anything else. Team always comes FIRST. Nevertheless, these are encouraging numbers by any count and allow Rivero to enter the ROY race

Despite the decent numbers that these two highly recruited players are putting up, I can’t help but have a soft spot for National University back-up point guard Rev Diputado.


The Case for Rev Diputado

Some are comparing Rev Diputado to former UST point guard Jeric Fortuna in terms of potential

While everyone was breaking the bank and recruiting NU Bullpup Hubert Cani (who is currently serving residency at Ateneo), Bulldog management scored a coup with their under-the-radar move to lure the former San Beda Red Cub away from Mendiola.

He’s currently averaging 15.1 minutes per game, with modest averages of just 4.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, and 1.1 apg – not numbers that would pop out and scream rookie of the year material. However, coaches know his value as they see him as a bulldog of a defender who follows the system and has a good feel for the game. Some are comparing him to former UST point guard Jeric Fortuna in terms of potential. By the way, Fortuna actually led Barako Bull in scoring last conference amongst locals, so that’s a pretty solid compliment.


Comparing the 3 freshies

What makes it difficult to compare these three players is their respective roles (and minutes) that each has this season, not to mention the three play different positions.

Tolentino is the star of the recruitment class and has the biggest role amongst the 3, being a 2nd / 3rd option on a good Ateneo team. He’s also a capable outside shooter, so he fits perfectly in Coach Bo Perasol’s perimeter-heavy offense.

Rivero is backing up last year’s Finals MVP on a loaded squad who just happen to be the defending champ, so it’s no surprise that Coach Sauler is bringing him in slowly.

Diputado is just biding his time but it’s clear that he’s a favorite of Coach Eric Altamirano and his role will grow in time.

I can’t help but wonder though, if we pegged them all at 30 minutes, how would their production look like




Based on per-30 minute production, it seems that Rivero may actually have the edge over his peers, as he basically averages a double-double (per-30). Diputado actually puts up decent numbers too. What stands out is the 2.0 turnovers per 30 min, a low figure for a point guard.

I just want to clarify though that we can’t expect a direct translation of stats. Normally when a player plays heavier minutes, his workload increases and chances are he won’t produce at the same level. And in the case of Rivero and Diputado, more minutes would also mean playing more against starters of other teams, which may mean tougher defense to play against.

As of now, I think Tolentino has the edge to pick up the ROY trophy given his role on his team. But don’t be surprised if we see the other two catch up to him in terms of hype, fandom, and most importantly, production, in the coming years.


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Vic Manuel says Alaska yet to return to contender status



Photo by PBA Images

Even if they have won their third straight game coming from a 0-2 start in the 2018 Philippine Cup, Vic Manuel thinks that it’s still not enough to tell that the Alaska Aces should be considered as one of the topflight teams in the league.

“Hindi pa rin masabi, kasi lahat ng team ngayon, talagang malalakas na eh, hindi na basta-basta easy yung mga game eh,” said “The Muscleman” Sunday night, after he and the Aces took down Barangay Ginebra, 97-83, at the Ynares Center.

The way the Aces have been playing this 2018 is remarkably different from the way they did last 2017, where they raked in more losses than wins. For Manuel, it’s partly because of the team regaining their competitive fire.

“Sa practice pa lang, talagang nakikipag-compete eh. Walang easy kahit sa practice, talagang bigay-todo lahat,” said the 30-year-old, who has been with Alaska since 2014.

“Sobrang aggressive, kaya yun, nadadala namin sa game.”

It also helps that the Milkmen have been healthy so far this season, unlike last year where they couldn’t even field a complete line-up in almost every outing. Manuel knows it too well, as he had been injury-plagued last season.

“Yung injury ko talaga, hindi madali eh, kasi sa tuhod talaga, sa left knee,” said the six-foot-four forward from Nueva Ecija. “So pinu-push nila ako kung ano ang kailangan ko gawin. Ayun, nagbubunga naman lahat.”

Now, eyes are on the Aces if they can keep this streak of theirs going. And for Manuel, who led the Aces with 18 points and five rebounds against the Gin Kings, all they need to do is to sustain what they have right now in their next games.

“Kailangan every game, focused pa rin kami, mas maging aggressive kami,” he said.

“Kung anong mga ginagawa namin nitong mga last three games namin, kailangan dalhin pa namin sa mga susunod naming games.”

Apologies to LA Tenorio

After the bout, Manuel had actually planned to approach Ginebra’s star point guard LA Tenorio regarding the spat they figured into late in the third quarter, after the former undercut the much bigger Manuel near the rim.

But Manuel made it clear that he wasn’t going after Tenorio to get back at him. All that he wanted to do was to apologize, as he found out that Tenorio was just trying to help him get back up and not trying to instigate something.

“Sabi niya, ‘bakit mo ako binigyan? Itatayo na nga kita eh.’ Nahiya din ako sa kanya. Magso-sorry sana ako, eh wala eh, lumayo na siya eh,” Manuel shared with a chuckle.

“Lalapitan ko sana eh, pero umalis agad.”

That incident was just one of the many things that frustrated Tenorio. Aside from absorbing their second straight loss, he couldn’t get things going, as he only scored five on a dismal 1-of-13 shooting from the floor.

“Magandang bonus din sa’min yun kasi medyo masama yung nilaro niya,” said Manuel.

“Swerte na lang siguro kami.”

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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