Nov. 28, 2016
PBA Rookie Rankings: 10 Good First Impressions
We always remember the first time.
I know... I know... that line sounds kinky and otherwise R-18. But you can’t discount the truth behind that line. It’s pretty much a different take of Axe’s tagline “first impressions last”. I can still remember when the late Shell coach John Moran benched 2004 top pick Rich Alvarez because he has yet to understand his system. It’s pretty much the same reason as to what former Shell guard and current San Miguel coach Leo Austria told the press when he benched Arnold Van Opstal.
I suddenly remember the fiesta band that played Billy Ocean’s “Get out of My Dreams, Get in to My Car” song.
From November 21 to November 28, the league has presented 18 new faces. Actually, it’s 17 if you count out TNT’s Chris Sumalinog but since he never logged a single minute last season, then the Ginebra game is officially his baptism of fire.
Anyway of the twenty new faces to hit the PBA stage, here are the ten that excelled.
Note to people: I’m still going to mention the second games of Mac Belo and Roger Pogoy but bear in mind that the list follows their first game stats.
Game starts now!
Number Ten: Ed Daquioag
The combo guard from my alma mater had an okay output as Baser Amer’s chief relief. In 18 minutes, Daquioag squeezed in six points, one rebound, and two assists. He needs to build up his confidence to preserve a rotation spot though as Joseph Yeo played only 15 minutes and the Bolts DNP-ed Jonathan Uyloan and Anjo Caram.
Number Nine: Russel Escoto
One of five former FEU Tamaraws in this list, it feels as if Mahindra is going to slowly push Escoto to the spotlight. When GlobalPort crushed Mahindra, Escoto went 2-of-7 from the field. He finished the game with six points, four rebounds, and an assist in 21 minutes of action. I can see these stats as anomalies but with Jason Deutchman and Jeckster Apinan trying their darndest to protect their pro careers, the last thing Escoto needs right now is complacency.
Number Eight: Gelo Alolino
Phoenix Fuel Masters
The pint-sized playmaker from National University is the only rookie to suit up for Phoenix in their first Philippine Cup game. Matthew Wright is out due to food poisoning and it didn’t help that new catch Doug Kramer suffered a mild stroke. So it was a welcome surprised that Alolino stepped up for the undermanned Fuel Masters – scoring eleven points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of action.
Number Seven: Roger Pogoy
This is all about first impressions and if we disregard his 15 points, three rebounds, and one steal output against Ginebra, you’ll understand why the FEU gunner is deep in this list. Gaining an “L” against Rain or Shine, Pogoy churned out nine points, three rebounds, and a block in 30 minutes of action. His playing time is expected to drop with the return of Jayson Castro but right now he’s averaging nearly 28 minutes per outing.
Number Six: Reden Celda
I was sceptical on whether or not Reden Celda can bring his brand of play to the big leagues but while he never really played big in the UAAP, he used the things he learned as a Tanduay Rhum Master to torch the inside with his lightning-quick reflexes. Even if the GlobalPort Batang Pier destroyed the Floodbusters (is it hard for Mahindra to make their moniker plural), Celda still managed to score ten points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Number Five: Jonathan Grey
The 24-year old ex-St. Benilde Blazer looked like a veteran in his prime against the Blackwater Elite. In 23 minutes, Grey lit it up with eleven points, four rebounds, an assist, and a steal. He is the highest-ranked non-special round player on this list and while Blackwater is enjoying their 2-0 run, they might have drafted the wrong Racal scorer (they got Ael Banal).
Number Four: Jio Jalalon
Mark Barroca may have led the Star Hotshots in scoring during their opener and Paul Lee may have struggled to open opportunities to the youngster but Jio Jalalon is a threat to become Chito Victolero’s go-to-guy in the future. Like the former San Juan Knight said, he chose the best player available in the draft and Jalalon is no patsy. Against San Miguel, the former Arellano Chief who played as if he’s Scottie F’N Thompson had eleven points, five rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
Number Three: Mike Tolomia
Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
Rain or Shine always has this knack to find big time shooters and slashers even if their squad is littered with top of the line guards. Mike Tolomia is no exception. Sure, he’ll probably lose his minutes to James Yap but in 16 glorious minutes, the heady FEU spitfire managed to put on a scoring clinic. Tolomia torched RR Pogoy and the Jayson Castro-less TNT with eleven points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal. The last guy who did such for ROS in his rookie year is Jericho Cruz... and that’s not a bad thing.
Number Two: Mac Belo
I will always think that Mac Belo is the top pick of the 2016 PBA Draft (at least subjectively) because with the jaw-dropping performances he had unleashed, what’s not to love about this guy? He ranks second in this list only because the title of this blog is First Impressions. But after scoring 17 points, nine rebounds, and two assists in 33 minutes against Phoenix, Belo manhandled Meralco with 25 points, six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks in 37 minutes. The guy could be the next big FEU forward to hit it big in the pros after Arwind Santos. More importantly, he gave Blackwater its best start since elevating to the pro ranks.
Number One: Carl Bryan Cruz
In terms of first impressions, this guy takes the cake. I initially thought it was laughable for the league to alphabetize the formal announcement of the special round draftees with the guy getting the Alaska jacket to no reaction but Cruz gave me hope that opportunities create cash. Sans Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss, the former FEU Tamaraw rose to the occasion – scoring 20 points, 14 rebounds, and two steals in 27 minutes of action before fouling out which probably prompted the Aces to lose their opener against the NLEX Road Warriors. And to think this guy was a last minute addition to their opening day lineup. What is up with FEU players and big time pro careers!?!
So there you have it – I ranked down the ten-best First Impressions of the current Philippine Cup. Next time, I am going to give you the bottom half of the eighteen rookies that has played in this season.