It’s just so simple for RJ Abarrientos.
The 5-foot-10 playmaker simply gets himself as prepared as possible whenever he gets his number called — whether he comes off the bench or starts.
“Lagi ko lang iniisip na dapat prepared. Hindi naman pwedeng lalaban kami or sasabak kami sa giyera na wala kaming dalang mga armas,” he said.
“Off the bench ako, starting ako, iniisip ko lang ‘yung dapat kong gawin o yung mga makakatulong sa team para makuha namin ‘yung panalo.”
That’s exactly what he showed Wednesday night, when Gilas Pilipinas faced South Korea in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Pampanga.
Abarrientos was subbed in with 5:19 left in the second period with his side staring at a 19-35 deficit, and he provided the badly-needed spark.
He scored six points, helping the Filipino dribblers’ surge to trim the wide gap to just eight, 36-44, heading into the intermission.
“‘Yun ‘yung ino-observe ko nung nasa bench ako. Sinasabi ko nga sa bench na tingnan natin ‘yung tama at ‘yung mali na nangyayari sa loob ng court,” he said.
“Pagdating natin, mas angatan natin or i-maintain natin ‘yung tamang ginagawa natin kasi kung hindi, talagang lalamang at lalamang yung Korea.”
That finally got things going for Gilas. They got their first lead of the game in the third canto, and even enjoyed a 64-59 edge in the final period.
And even though the Koreans managed to regain the lead, 75-70, going to the last two minutes, the young crew showed composure beyond their years.
Gilas won, 81-78.
“We were down pero ginawa lang ‘yung part namin, ‘yung system talaga ni Coach Tab [Baldwin] sobrang importante sa’min,” said Abarrientos, who has yet to have a collegiate game under his belt.
There was no denying the impact Abarrientos made but what really made wonders for them, he said, was the kind of connection the team has.
That was evident when Dwight Ramos waited for the right opportunity to pass it to SJ Belangel, who drained the wild triple at the buzzer for the victory.
“Malaking factor sa’min ‘yung connection namin. Connected kami sa isa’t-isa sa ginagawa namin defense and offense,” he offered. “Siyempre bata kami, and mas experienced yung kalaban namin.
“So mas importante ‘yung maging buo kami and naguusap sa loob ng court.”
Then there’s also the duo he formed with Kai Sotto, who also contributed greatly to the triumph with 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
“Siya ‘yung ginagamit ko sa ball screen, siya lagi ‘yung hinahanap ko kasi nakikita ko yung high IQ niya sa paglalaro talaga. Sobrang laki ng in-improve niya, lalo na sa offense,” he said.
“Grabe talaga ‘yung Kai.”