Ian Sangalang turns into top rookie threat
MANILA, Philippines — The rookie of the Year race this season in the Philippine Basketball Association has a new contender in Ian Sangalang of San Mig Coffee.
Dismissed in the early part of the season as someone too raw for the award, the 6-foot-7 Sangalang has been making a strong case for himself in the past games for the Mixers.
He started his breakout party in Game 7 of the Philippine Cup Finals, won by the Mixers in emphatic fashion over Petron Blaze, and has sustained that form in the first two games of San Mig in the Commissioner’s Cup to earn his very first Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week citation for the period March 9 to 16.
A one-time NCAA MVP with San Sebastian, Sangalang chalked up averages of 13 points and six rebounds and helped the Mixers stay unbeaten in the short, import-spiced conference.
The Mixers pounded out wins over Globalport where he scored 16 points before pumping in eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter of a 90-80 decision of Barangay Ginebra on Sunday night.
“Ian gave us a huge lift and got us that lead in the fourth quarter,” San Mig coach Tim Cone said after the victory over the struggling Gin Kings, whom the Mixers conquered in seven games in the Philippine Cup semifinals.
“He just doesn’t blink in the fourth quarter,” Cone said.
“When the pressure is on, it doesn’t matter who is guarding him, whether it’s Japeth [Aguilar] or the import. He just doesn’t back down, he’s not afraid.”
Sangalang’s stretch of brilliance—and the way he has been piling up statistical points—is slowly but surely making him one of the prime candidates for the ROY award which most pundits have said will be contested only by Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter and Globalport’s Terrence Romeo.
Slaughter, the only player chosen ahead of Sangalang in the last Draft, actually finished in the top five of the statistical points race in the Philippine Cup and contested the Player of the Conference award along with Aguilar, Jay Washington of Globalport, Jason Castro of Talk ‘N Text and eventual winner June Mar Fajardo of Petron Blaze/San Miguel.
Romeo, a former UAAP MVP with Far Eastern U, has cooled off offensively in this conference.
He made heads turn by scoring a career-high 34 points—the most by any rookie thus far—in a narrow loss to Ginebra in the Philippine Cup eliminations.