MANILA, Philippines – In his second season in the PBA, Baser Amer has firmly established himself as the floor general of the Meralco Bolts.
The former San Beda College star was shaky in his rookie year, averaging only 6.1 points and 2.0 assists per game as a back up to Jimmy Alapag. But with the "Mighty Mouse" now serving as an assistant coach, Amer has seized the reins.
"Baser Amer's improvement this year has just been extraordinary," noted Meralco coach Norman Black. "Starting the second conference on, he's probably been arguably our best player, one of our best players."
"He's taken control of the team," Black added. "He is the quarterback of the team."
In the Governors' Cup, Amer is averaging 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. As he did for the Red Lions in the NCAA, Amer has shown a penchant for stepping up in big games: in a do-or-die quarterfinals game against Blackwater, he exploded for 31 points on top of six rebounds and nine assists in a 104-96 victory.
His solid play continued in the semifinals, where he helped the Bolts sweep the Star Hotshots to advance to the Finals of the PBA Governors' Cup for the second straight season. There, Amer is expected to play a big role as Meralco tries to get revenge against Barangay Ginebra.
"Meron namang (pressure)," said Amer. "Hindi mawawala 'yun."
But Amer is well equipped to handle the pressure and the responsibility. He is no stranger to the biggest of stages, having regularly led San Beda to the NCAA Finals during his stint. Even as he struggled as a rookie, he learned plenty as Alapag's apprentice.
And up to now, even as he has made a name for himself as a top-notch PBA point guard, Amer still regularly goes to Alapag for guidance.
"And'yan naman siya palagi," Amer said. "Every practice, every game."
"Feel ko nga pa rin na parang back-up pa rin niya ako," he admitted. "Sa game, kapag may nakikita siya sa loob or may mali siyang nakita, sinasabi niya sa akin, tapos ina-apply ko sa loob."
Alapag – as well as coach Ronnie Magsanoc – has allowed Amer to make the most of the opportunity given to him by Black, something that the guard is thankful for especially after all the struggles he experienced as a rookie.
"Last year, talagang nangapa pa ako," Amer said. "After nun, pinag-aralan ko talaga 'yung larong PBA."
The biggest test for Amer, of course, will come in the Governors' Cup Finals, where he will try to lead Meralco against the defending champions Gin Kings. He will be up against a tremendous Ginebra backcourt, which features not only wily veteran LA Tenorio, but also an old college rival in Scottie Thompson.
Amer has no doubts that he is ready.
"Sobrang comfortable kami ngayon," he says. "'Yung mga players namin, compared sa last conference, hindi kumpleto. This conference talaga, merong nadagdag. Sobrang comfortable kami."
Black, too, has no doubts that his point guard is well prepared for the task at hand.
"(Amer) is just a completely different player than he was last year, when he was subbing in for Jimmy Alapag," said Black. "Now, he is the point guard. He is the quarterback of this team."
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