MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo rookie Arvin Tolentino breathed a sigh of relief after he had a relatively solid game against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) last Saturday, a 69-58 victory for the Blue Eagles.
Tolentino finished with six points and six rebounds in 25 minutes of playing time, and visibly played with more energy even with the challenge of guarding UST center Karim Abdul in certain possessions.
Prior to that game, Tolentino – a prized recruit from the San Beda Red Cubs – had not scored a UAAP basket in 10 days.
"Masaya naman, okay naman," Tolentino said after the game. "Kailangan maging consistent na ako, and well, hindi ko naman hinahanap 'yung score ko. At least makatulong ako sa team sa defense at rebounds."
After a blazing start to his UAAP career, Tolentino's performance dipped in the middle of the season. He had a three-point, nine-rebound outing against the University of the East at the end of the first round, while playing admirable defense against University of the East (UE) center Charles Mammie.
But it went downhill from there, culminating in back-to-back scoreless outings against UE in their second-round meeting and against National University.
"Nag-start ito noong UE game noong first round. Nag-struggle ako, pero at least naka-depensa ako. Pero noong next games, off talaga ako pati sa defense," he admitted.
"Nag-extra work na lang ako sa practice at kinausap ako ng mga teammates ko, lalo na si Coach Bo (Perasol)," he added.
Tolentino admitted that his confidence took a hit in the midst of his slump, even as he was publicly backed by his teammates and coaches.
"Sa totoo lang, talagang bumaba," he said, but at the same time thanked his teammates for their support.
"Kinausap lang nila ako na dumadating talaga sa career 'yung ganoon, so I have to be tough lang and trust my teammates," Tolentino also said. "Good thing, may chance pa ako para makabawi. We have three games to go."
Ateneo next plays University of the Philippines, against which Tolentino dropped a career-high 20 points in the first round.