From Eagle, to Red Lion and now a Heavy Bomber
At the end of the elimination phase, the JRU Heavy Bombers sit atop the Group A standings of the 2015 FilOil Tournament at a 7-1 record. Off the bench, Paolo Pontejos has been playing a good stretch so far for his squad, who is in good pace of ending up in a higher standing compared to their other colleagues in the NCAA.
Before he got his current roster spot in JRU, Pontejos once led his high school alma mater Colegio San Agustin in Biñan, Laguna to its respective secondary level games. Despite his small frame, Pontejos, who graduated high school back in 2009, has already been known to be a potent scorer both from the inside and out in the perimeter.
“Sa Palarong Pambansa kasi sa Laguna, yung sa STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon Athletic Association) games kung saan naglalaban-laban mga provincial games like Laguna, Rizal, Cavite. Tapos kalaban namin nun Rizal, which is ‘yung San Beda Taytay. Ni-recruit nila ako. Then sila mga naging kakampi ko sa palarong pambansa. Andun din ‘yung coaches ng San Beda juniors, then nasabihan siguro then umabot na sa seniors.” Paolo shared.
Despite garnering a spot in the talent-loaded roster of the San Beda squad, Pontejos was overshadowed by the likes of Baser Amer, and several other point guards of the Red Lions thus getting limited playing minutes in the court. Pontejos then shifted to another NCAA team in JRU in which he feels he has the chance to prove himself in the collegiate level.
In the current preseason tournament, Pontejos played seven out of the eight outings the team had and is averaging 9.6 points a game. He led the scoring column twice already for the Bombers as he continues to play the role of a sixth man to provide instant offense from the second unit.
Prior to the last game of the elims against Adamson, he is averaging a 47.6%(10/21) clip from three-point territory as is sixth in the league in triples made. In his games so far, he is making about two shots from downtown per contest.
Paolo embraced the role of being the team’s sixth man under Coach Vergel Meneses. “Meron naman strategy si coach and naniniwala naman kami na nakikita niya kung anong mas okay na takbo ng team. Balanced na din para pag may hindi maganda ‘yung laro, andiyan lang ako sa bench. Ready lang, spitfire kung baga.” he said.
And while he says that he patterns his game from the Star Hotshots’ veteran PJ Simon, he says playing from the bench makes him understand the role he must do once his number is called.
“Focus ako sa bench. Pinapanuod ko yung mga tamang ginagawa, yung mga maling ginagawa. Pag ready na, alam ko na yung gagawin ko,” he added.
Just like the rest of the universities, Pontejos believes that this Filoil games will help boost the team’s chemistry and confidence. This preseason stretch also gives their team’s rookies to prove their worth heading into the final roster that the team will have in the 91st season of the NCAA.
“Sobra kaming nagpe-prepare talaga(FilOil). Sobrang ginagamit namin yung rookies. Yung FilOil parang NCAA din. Malaking bagay yung nabibigay. Like ‘yung Father Martin. And dito rin ‘yung venue ng games(FilOil Arena) kaya mas okay.” Pontejos mentioned.
He closed out by sharing of his expectations to reach the top four in the NCAA and deal with the championship if given the chance. “Hopefully yung final four talaga. Then pagdating ng final four, aim na siguro yung championship. Bahala na si Lord.”
The Filoil quarterfinals will begin on Wednesday, still at the FilOil Arena in San Juan City.