Less than three weeks since the opening of the PBA’s 39th season, top rookie pick Greg Slaughter of Barangay Ginebra, Terrence Romeo of Globalport and second overall draftee Ian Sangalang of San Mig Super Coffee are the early “head-turners” for the 2013-14 PBA Rookie Draft class.
Let’s take a look at how they have played so far in their first few games as a pro.
1. Greg Slaughter – The 6’11” Slaughter has done well thus far, after the team’s first four games, playing a key role in the Gin Kings’ 3-1 start. Except for Ginebra’s 87-100 shocking setback at the hands of the injury-depleted Meralco Bolts, the former Ateneo Blue Eagle big man has done well on the defensive end, averaging 10.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, while contributing 13.0 points per game.
Said Slaughter after the first four games: “I feel a lot more confident playing out there (in the PBA), knowing I can play in this league.”
Slaughter though is aware that he still has a long way to go in the pro league, especially since he’ll be doing battle for a long time with his former collegiate nemesis June Mar Fajardo of Petron.
Fajardo and Slaughter’s basketball court rivalry dates back to their Cebu college years. The 6’10” Fajardo played for the University of Cebu then, while Slaughter was with the University of Visayas, just before he eventually joined Ateneo about four years ago.
2. Terrence Romeo – The fifth overall pick of Globaport in the draft has been hogging the basketball headlines lately despite Batang Pier’s 1-3 start for the season-opening Philippine Cup.
Well, the 5’11” guard out of Far Eastern University is averaging 22.7 points per contest – blasting Air21 with a personal PBA career-best 34 points to help Globalport score its first win for the season, a 114-100 decision.
Days after, Romeo engaged Ginebra veteran star Mark Caguioa in a second half shootout en route to a 27-point output. The Batang Pier lost, however as Caguioa came to the Gin Kings’ rescue, pumping 14 of the team’s last 16 points in a dominant offensive display to the delight of the pro-Ginebra crowd.
Romeo said despite his early strong showing, he still hasn’t proven anything yet, vowing to keep improving every practice and every game day in order to help the Batang Pier in their PBA title bid.
3. Ian Sangalang – The former NCAA MVP said it’s never easy learning the triangle offense of San Mig coach Tim Cone. But so far, the 6’5″ pride of Pampanga, has done well, averaging 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Mixers, who are off to a rough 1-3 start into the season.
Sangalang admits he’s still a long way from grasping the complicated triangle offense that has netted 15 PBA championship for Cone, 13 while he was coaching Alaska and now, two titles with the San Mig franchise.
With San Mig starting the season with injuries to Joe Devance, Peter June Simon, rookie guard Justin Melton, and just recently, James Yap, Cone hopes this could be a blessing in disguise in some ways because he’s been forced to use his rookies more.
“They (rookies) are getting and better everyday. The good news is we’re forced to use them, which can somehow, fast track their growth,” explained Cone.
While it’s still early to tell who among the current batch of freshmen will go on to win the Rookie of the Year award, at least, these three gave us a glimpse of what they can bring into the pro league.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about the other first round rookie picks.