Rain or Shine head coach Chris Gavina tipped his hat to the effort displayed by Santi Santillan — particularly the rookie’s activity on the boards — during their Honda PBA Philippine Cup 2021 conquest of the still-winless Terrafirma on Sunday.
The fifth overall pick collared a total of seven rebounds in a strong performance. He also chalked up six points on 3-of-7 shooting, an assist, and a block without a turnover in the 13 minutes and 39 seconds he was on the floor.
“He’s so aggressive in going after rebounds,” the youthful bench tactician said moments after the Elasto Painters’ skid-ending 83-77 victory.
It was easily the most rebounds Santillan has hauled down so far in his young pro career. Prior to facing the Dyip, the De La Salle University product only had a total of 10 caroms in their first five games of the conference.
The most he’s had previously were just three. He made those in their 71-62 win over the Blackwater Bossing last July 18.
What has impressed Gavina the most about the 25-year-old big man is what he called his ‘unique ability’ in rebounding.
“We were lucky enough to pick him this year, and we knew what he brought — a great deal of energy. And he has this unique ability to gravitate to where the ball bounces,” offered the cager-turned-mentor.
Now, Gavina and Co. are keen on getting the best out of the Cebuano cager as the all-Filipino conference goes along.
“Every single day in practice, I keep telling the coaching staff that Santi is such a great talent to have,” he said.
“The more we can get him on the floor and maximize him… I think, moving forward, Santi is gonna be a great asset for us.”