For Phoenix Pulse head coach Louie Alas, RR Garcia has long been on his radar — very, very long.
The veteran bench strategist revealed that he had actually wanted to acquire the playmaker from Zamboanga City when he was still with the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights program, but unable to do so.
“Matagal ko na siyang gustong player,” Alas said. “Sa ‘kin nag-tryout ‘yan sa Letran before napunta sa FEU. Kaya lang nung mag-tryout siya sa Team B, nasa Team A ako. ‘Yung nagdala sa kanya sa Letran, dating player ko sa Las Piñas.
“Nung hindi siya nakuha, pumunta siya FEU. Magaling na bata ‘yan talaga.”
Then fast forward to 2019. Alas and Garcia are now working together, when the latter was signed by the Fuel Masters prior to the PBA Governors’ Cup, marking his return to action after being unused by TNT KaTropa for several months.
It has been a while since Garcia last played in the PBA. For Alas, he sees the extreme eagerness from the former UAAP MVP to regain his old form, but he always reminds him to remain patient as it doesn’t happen in an instant.
“Lagi ko sinasabi mag-pasensya lang dahil gusto niya agad gumanda ng super ‘yung laro niya. ‘Di niya makukuha ‘yan. This is not a sprint — sabi ko ‘marathon ‘to’. Game out, game in dapat nakukuha mo ‘yung dati mong ginagawa,” he said.
Garcia has had longer minutes since the start of the season-ending meet, as Alas wants to help him regain his confidence. On Wednesday versus Rain or Shine, he logged in 31 minutes and 43 seconds.
And in the game — his longest for this season — he showed his team they made a right move in signing him.
The sixth overall pick of GlobalPort in the 2013 Draft buried the game-winning bucket off a Eugene Phelps dime as time expired, to lift the Fuel Masters past the Elasto Painters, 86-84, snapping their two-game skid in the process.
More than the shot itself, Alas is proud of how Garcia made himself available for the shot. It was actually a broken play, since Phelps should have given Garcia a screen for him to pop out, but that didn’t happen at all.
For the 55-year-old coach, those things can’t be taught, and it only proved how good Garcia is.
“Hindi naman siya dapat ‘yung naging hero dun, siya ‘yung naging recipient nung pasa ni Eugene. ‘Yung mga ganung bata, hindi mo matuturo ‘yung right place and the right time. ‘Di naman siya dapat andun, [pero] na-libre siya,” Alas said.
“Lagi ko sinasabi na elite guard ‘yan si RR. Magaling din talaga ‘yan. Kailangan lang bumalik ‘yung kumpiyansa niya.”
Garcia, on the other hand, said that he was just giving back the trust given to him by Alas through his end-game heroics.
“Sabi nga sa ‘kin ni coach kanina, kumpiyansa lang. Parang sinuklian ko naman ‘yung mga sinasabi niya sa’kin,” said Garcia, who had 14 points. “Masaya ako na nakabalik ako sa PBA dahil sa kanya, sa Phoenix.
“Sana tuluy-tuloy lang.”
Still, Garcia is looking to get better as the conference goes along, and to regain his rhythm.
‘Ngayon nakakabalik-balik na ako. Pero dikit-dikit games namin eh, siyempre kailangan din ng pahinga talaga. Siguro after nung Northport (sa Sabado) mahaba-haba preparation namin, siguro makuha ko na rhythm ko.”