Truth be told, Mike Phillips wasn’t prepared to play with Kevin Quiambao.
The two had been through quite a bit of training for De La Salle University, but live-action games were another matter altogether.
And so, the Filipino-American was one of those whose eyes were opened and jaws got dropped as the playmaking big was whipping passes left and right, up and down in his Green Archers debut in the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup, where he flirted with a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.
This, after Quiambao wound up to be one of the select bright spots for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers third window where he normed 5.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, and then the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup where he averaged 6.5 markers, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.8 dimes.
Early on, Phillips, of course, needed some sort of adjustment period for all those passes. He didn’t expect them to be at the right spot, at the right time. He didn’t expect them to be coming from his 6-foot-6 frontcourt partner-in-crime.
“You have to have your head on a swivel ’cause if not, his passes are gonna hit you on the head,” he exclaimed, as the Taft-based team scored its second straight win in the 2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup last Sunday, while also booking a ticket to the PBA D-League playoffs.
Slowly but surely, though, the 6-foot-8 rebounding machine did adjust, and so did all of La Salle, and they welcomed with wide open arms their very own Nikola Jokic.
“Grabe. Si Kevin, pagpasok niya, nagbago yung whole offense namin,” he expressed, talking Tagalog as if he didn’t just arrive in Manila for the first time two years ago.
“He really opens up everything. Everyone wants to have a teammate like Kevin.”
And that goes not only on-court but also off of it as well. As Phillips put it, “He’s just a great guy. Real humble. Real unselfish. Great teammate.”
The even better news for the Green Archers is that the appreciation is a two-way street. For his part, Quiambao is looking forward to having a running mate who’ll take care of the inside while he does damage from the outside.
“Fit na fit kami! We both know our roles. Ako, tina-try ko gawin yung akin. Siya naman, siya si ‘Motor Mike,’” he remarked.
“Sa loob, siya na bahala. Sa labas, ako na.”
With ‘Motor Mike’ and ‘KQ,’ La Salle has two towers very much on the rise – a rise that may very well end up with their first Finals since 2017, and maybe, just maybe, their first championship since 2016.
The entire 2022 Filoil Ecooil Preseason Cup will stream LIVE on Smart Sports Facebook page