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Ricky Dandan sees Jon Gabriel as bright spot for Kia

Jon Gabriel was riding the Kia Picanto’s bench during their first five games of the 2017-18 Philippine Cup, even if the franchise had already switched coaches from the young Chris Gavina to the seasoned Ricky Dandan.

But on Wednesday, the rookie out of Colegio de San Lorenzo finally set foot on a PBA court. Even if the Picanto lost, 76-105, to the Meralco Bolts, the 24-year-old could still say that it was one of the best moments of his young career.

Gabriel was the third-best performer for Kia, as he had 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, along with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist in over 22 minutes of action. It was enough for him to earn praise from Dandan, who had to field a team without Jay-R Reyes and Jackson Corpuz.

“Para sa akin sinuklian ko lang yung tiwala na binibigay sakin ng coach at management,” said the lanky six-foot-six forward of his play.

“Bonus na lang yung score eh. Hustle lang ng hustle. Yun naman gusto nila eh.”

“He’s the bright spot for us,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan. “He will be very promising and we are fortunate to have him here.

“Maybe, our bigs being gone is a blessing, because we were able to give Jon playing time.”

The experience he gained puts the rough start to his pro career behind, due to a whirlwind of events.

Gabriel was actually the TNT Katropa’s eighth overall pick in the 2017 Draft, but things went downhill after he was shipped to the Phoenix Fuel Masters just days after the draft. Things turned worse since he and the Fuel Masters did not see eye-to-eye, even if he had already spent days of practices with them, so much so that he was left unsigned prior to the 43rd season.

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He used this as motivation to work harder.

“Parang, ganito pala sa pro, kailangan talaga mag-sakripisyo muna,” Gabriel shared. “Kailangan ko mag-adjust ng marami.

“Kailangan ko magpakundisyon ng husto para maipasok, at makita ng coaches na nagpupursigi ka.”

But now, Gabriel is satisfied with where he is, despite Kia being at the bottom of the team standings. Even the coaches admire his efforts, with Dandan hinting that he may become a part of his rotation from now on.

“He has a lot of promise, and we tend to build from that,” beamed Dandan.

“I expect him to be a part of the rotation now. We’ll see.”

The former Marinerong Pilipino Skipper didn’t guarantee that he can emulate his Wednesday night outing in their next games., however The only thing he promised is that he’ll give his all in every given opportunity.

“Gagawin ko pa rin best ko. ‘Di ako umaasa na ganun pa rin lalaruin ko,” said Gabriel.

“Pero pipilitin ko para makatulong ako sa team namin.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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