Enciso plugging hole of Castro’s absence shows enviable depth of TNT’s bench
When TNT cornerstone Jayson Castro sat out the game against Blackwater one Thursday evening, Simon Enciso was ready to fill really big shoes.
“Yeah, it took me some games to kind of find some type of rhythm, but I was confident in the work I put in and the work my team puts in,” Enciso told the Inquirer after chalking up 16 points in a starting role for the Tropang Giga, who demolished the Elite, 109-96.
Enciso was emblematic of the depth TNT brought into the bubble; his offense not only was one of five players in double figures for the team, his overall performance made people forget Castro was sitting out the game due to a strained calf. It’s probably one of the unheralded strengths of a squad that has opened up with five straight ins in a compressed tournament.
“[C]oach says it every game since we’ve been having guys with injuries: ‘Next man up, be ready.’ That’s pretty much all I’m doing,” said the 29-year-old Enciso.
“It was just a matter of time until I got into a groove and started getting into a rhythm with the other guys,” he added.
Roger Pogoy and Ray Parks Jr., who also punched in twin digits in the victory and who have submitted 40-point games in the bubble, have repeatedly told the Inquirer in previous interviews: The Tropang Giga is more than the sum of its vaunted starting unit.
“I’m just waiting for Kuya Simon to pop off,” Parks previously told the Inquirer on the heels of his scintillating 40-point job against Terrafirma during the opening week.
Bong Ravena, TNT’s coach, has taken notice of Enciso’s value to the team, even before picking up the cudgels for the hurting Castro.
“Well, Simon has been consistent, especially defensively. And plus, now his offense came along and we got numbers from him. So while the others are not playing, like Jayson … we have guys like Simon and it [helps] us really big,” Ravena said.
“We’re happy to win without Jayson,” he added. “At least, he was able to get some rest. And we need him to rest because next week, we have three straight games eh, [we will play] every other day. So we really need to prepare physically and mentally also.”
Enciso, who was drafted in 2015 and has made three pit stops before finding a home in the MVP Group’s flagship squad, believes there’s another thing apart from the team’s depth that will push the Tropang Giga deep into this tournament—and its oftentimes glossed-over chemistry and a palpable championship hunger.
“I think it’s the hunger that every single player has to win is what’s helping us,” he said. “I also love how everyone is encouraging and genuinely wants to see each other do well every time we step on the court.”
“The competition and bond that we have as a whole is truly amazing,” the California-born guard added.
So with that firepower and chemistry, everything seems to be falling in place for TNT, right?
No. At least, not yet.
Enciso sees this team just as he sees himself: Still with ways to go, and still with plenty to prove.
“I think for us to keep this train rolling, we have to not be content and know that we have a lot to work on,” he said.
“The job’s not finished. We cannot stop until we achieve our goal.”