PBA: Ginebra channels underdog squad of good ol’ days
Remnants from the regular squad and the influx of 3×3 players filling the void left by familiar names are looking to benefit from the opportunity suiting up for Barangay Ginebra in the PBA On Tour.
“It’s an opportunity for our games to grow and for us [to] improve in time for the regular season,” Nards Pinto said in Filipino after Ginebra entered the win column after a 0-2 start in the exhibition series following Wednesday’s 95-89 defeat of Phoenix at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Pinto finished with 22 points while some Gin Kings who were either role players or benchwarmers, like Aljon Mariano, Raymond Aguilar and Jayson David, also scored in double figures to produce an outcome that came after losing to the San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots.
“I’m just happy for the players because they are getting some confidence,” said assistant coach Richard del Rosario, who is handling the team in an acting capacity with Tim Cone focused on helping Gilas Pilipinas prepare for the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
The absences of Cone, Scottie Thompson, Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar, Jamie Malonzo, LA Tenorio and Stanley Pringle either because of Gilas duties or because of injuries have left Ginebra without its potent star power.
But Ginebra continues to reel in fans to the exhibition contests, as seen with the packed audience inside the 3,000-seat arena that is not known as a venue for regular PBA games.
“I told them that when Ginebra became popular during the time of [Robert] Jaworski, they didn’t have a lot of star players and they were the underdogs,” Del Rosario said. “We’re always known as NSD (Never Say Die) and we want to live up to that.
“I just want them to work hard and that’s where we can get that NSD spirit. This is an opportunity for them to be known, not just because of either winning or losing games, but how they play the game and how they fought. And that’s what we want to bring every single game.”
One player given the opportunity to get noticed is Kim Aurin, one of Ginebra’s players on the 3×3 side along with Donald Gumaru, Ralph Salcedo and Louis Cu.
The former University of Perpetual Help is using the On Tour to boost his stock before the PBA Rookie Draft in September and has shown some promise with his three-game average of 12.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals.
“I’m really grateful for the big exposure that I’m getting, especially after coming over from the 3×3,” said Aurin in Filipino.
Del Rosario concedes that Ginebra’s On Tour version still has work to be done, namely making the Ginebra regulars a viable part of the rotation come Season 48, waiting for Jeremiah Gray to gain some confidence amid a shooting slump and for the 3×3 players to progress further.
“Hopefully as this On Tour goes on, we can see the growth of each player and it’s gonna benefit us once the season gets underway,” Del Rosario said.