Of the over 70 aspirants in last year’s PBA draft, only a fourth made it to the cut. As the 45th season of the PBA opens in less than a week, the rookie signees who've earned a slot in their respective teams now must hit the ground running to keep up with the professionals.
The tension’s all good, as the competitive spirit of the young and active bunch is fueled by the healthy pressure they put on themselves as they make their PBA debuts. Here's how four of them are dealing with it.
Fresh off the Blue Eagle’s nest, Adrian Wong has one thing in his mind: to play quality minutes for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters as he aims to establish a good impression during his rookie year.
“The best that I can offer is for the Rain or Shine is my team defense and my shooting. I’m really excited because it’s my rookie year, and it’s just going to come by so I have to make the most out of it and enjoy each moment,” he shared with SPIN Life during the PBA Media Day at Okada Manila Hotel, Pasay.
The former Ateneo player skipped his last playing year in the UAAP to fulfill his dream of playing in the Filipino professional league. Coupled with the trust he's feeling from his team, he's more motivated than ever to make a statement in his first season.
“It’s really more of my teammates helping me out during the whole process. [They had] the utmost confidence in me, especially our coaches. This confidence just helps me stay composed and calm. Knowing that they have confidence in me brings out confidence in myself,” he added.
On the side of the gritty North Port Batang Pier, Sean Manganti promises to bring to the court a tough playing attitude. From there, he said, the rest will follow.
Throughout his collegiate career, Manganti has established a rep as one of the bright spots in last year's Adamson Falcons, the high-flying dunker in a team that, in 2019, missed its first Final Four outing in four years.
He said: “This may sound weird but I can give [North Port] my whole heart. I’m going to go out and just give it my all because I take pride in that — I know that if I give my heart, I’m doing everything. In fact, my teammates and coaches don’t really make me feel any pressure. They’re making me feel at home, they give me my freedom.”
Slotted in a team loaded with vets, the fresh legs of Arvin Tolentino might be an advantage for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, especially when he pulls off his offensive plays.
“Di ko pa masyado alam ‘yung role namin sa team," the Far Eastern University grad admitted. "Knowing myself, I can shoot from the outside, floor-spacing, may kaya din akong gawin.”
Although highly anticipated to deliver as part of a multi-awarded team, 6-foot-5 Tolentino has learned to shrug off external pressure and only focus on what matters the most for him: the drive coming from his new team.
“High expectations with this team and with the fans din, pero the only pressure in my part, is ‘yung good pressure within the team. Lagi sila nagbibigay ng tips, nagtutulungan.”
Fast-paced plays and a consistent performance could perhaps be AC Soberano’s best contribution to the dynamic NLEX Road Warriors.
The former San Beda University guard revealed that he’s not expecting much from his rookie year, but he’s eager to give more for his team.
“Sobrang excited lang ako. Tiyaga and trabaho pa talaga para makakuha ng break. Ibibigay ko best ko especially sa outside shooting ko, kasi kailangan din talaga nila,” he said.
The rookie was quick to make his presence felt during the preseason tournaments of NLEX, especially with a 12-point performance against Korea University on early February.
After several months of training with the team, 5-foot-11 AC shared that he’s already observing his personal growth, right in time for the PBA All-Filipino conference.
He added: “Mas lalo pang tumaas ‘yung knowledge ko sa decision-making sa court. Sobrang dami kong natutunan sa mga veterans, lalo na ‘yung pagiging hard worker nila, and very approachable attitude."
This story originally appeared on Spin.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.