Bobby Balucanag and JP Sarao have made their names outside of the PBA.
Wherever there’s a ligang labas game, you’ll find either the 6-foot-1 Balucanag or the 6-foot-3 Sarao there. Of course, they would also find gigs with an MPBL club or PBA D-League team.
But when Palayan City joined the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup powered by TM, they tapped the two panalay stars.
Though new to the 3×3 game, they did not need to adjust much.
“Kasi sa panalay, sobrang pisikal din eh. Hindi ka ibe-baby ng mga referee ‘pag sa ibang lugar eh, lalo na ‘pag alam na import ka. P**** ‘yung mga local doon talagang hard foul ang gagawin sa’yo para ma-stop ka. Alam na alam ni Kuya Bobby ‘yan,” said the 25-year-old during an episode of Chooks-to-Go Crossover.
“Oo, depende ‘yan kung maramihang import. Minsan kasi merong isang import eh, talagang bugbog ka talaga, all around sa’yo lahat eh,” continued Balucanag, 30.
In the three legs so far in the country’s first-ever professional 3×3 league, the duo were able to lead the Capitals to a semis appearance. And it came at the expense of their more popular brothers in Nueva Ecija.
“Mas intense ‘yung laban namin kasi sister teams kami eh,” said Balucanag about their 21-14 (7:44) quarterfinals win over the Rice Vanguards.
“Nilaro lang namin ‘yung advantage namin sa loob kaya siguro kami nanalo.”
Usually, teams would try to go fire for fire with Nueva Ecija. But thanks to their head coach — the country’s top analytics guru Paolo Layug — they realized what they needed to do.
Yes, given the right resources, analytics can bring out the best even of panalay stars.
“Ang laking help ni coach Pao talaga kasi everyday halos pinapakita niya sa amin through video ‘yung mga mistakes namin, kung saan kami kailangang mag-adjust. Saka talagang si coach, parang teacher talaga siya,” expressed Sarao, a product of St. Francis of Assisi
“Talagang i-popoint out niya ‘yung mali mo kahit masaktan ka or magustuhan mo. Kung mali ka, you’re wrong, then iimprove mo. ‘Pag na-improve mo naman talagang nandoon din siya, he’s happy for you.”
What’s good about Layug is that he does not get too foreign with his players, making sure to explain things in ways easily digested by anyone.
“Hindi naman. Lagi naman siya nag-a-advice para sa amin eh, saka nandiyan siya lagi,” said Balucanag.
With a weapon in Layug, don’t be surprised if Palayan will continue its rise in the President’s Cup.