RJ Abarrientos brings a touch of Gilas to FEU’s UAAP bid
MANILA, Philippines—RJ Abarrientos crossed defenders, made pull-up threes, issued nifty passes and dove for the occasional loose ball.
That was during his stint with Gilas Pilipinas.
On Saturday, it was the same thing all over, this time for Far Eastern University, as the quicksilver playmaker was all over the floor in a 76-51 demolition of University of Santo Tomas at the start of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena.
That he conjured a very familiar performance was, according to Abarrientos, by design.
“[T]he player I will be [in FEU] is the RJ I was with Gilas,” he promised after firing 18 points on 40 percent (4 of 10) shooting from beyond the arc and adding five rebounds and two assists in his first game with the Tamaraws.
Abarrientos is one of the rookies to watch in the UAAP, but the Gilas Pilipinas standout said his stint with the national team program ensured that his game is a whole lot greater than the sum of its paltry collegiate experience so far.
“This is my rookie year [but] my experience with Gilas [helped] because the level is higher in the international [game]. Everyone who played with Gilas really grew [as a player],” Abarrientos said.
“My experience and being a vocal leader with Gilas is one of the things I brought here,” said Abarrientos, who came into the tournament carrying more than the usual expectations rookies shoulder.
And true enough, the only thing new in Abarrientos’ newcomer status was his uniform.
“I’m sure nobody was surprised [with Abarrientos’ performance],” said FEU coach Olsen Racela. “Everyone knows how RJ can play. The whole Philippines saw what he can do”
“He still needs to work on a lot of things and I’ve already talked to him about it,” Racela added.
Whatever those wrinkles are, Abarrientos is prepared to iron them out.
“We will work harder,” he said.
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