MANILA, Philippines – When Sidney Onwubere logged exactly zero minutes in TNT KaTropa's first game of the PBA Philippine Cup against Rain or Shine, the former Emilio Aguinaldo College star refused to pout or complain.
Instead, he asked himself what he needed to do to get off the bench.
"Sabi ko, parang may kulang," said Onwubere, who was drafted by Phoenix with the eighth pick, but was soon sent to the KaTropa in a trade. "Naisip ko na baka kailangan ko pa sipagan sa practice."
"Siguro, may kulang pa na hindi ko naipapakita sa mga coaches," he added. "Inisip ko na doblehin ko pa yung effort ko sa practice and then siguro pag dating sa game, titriplehin ko pa para makuha yung minutes na gusto ko."
Onwubere's efforts paid off: he played 28 minutes in TNT's next game, a 106-98 win over the Alaska Aces. He made a good account of himself as he tallied six points and nine rebounds, while contributing in their defense against Alaska star Calvin Abueva.
"Na-starstruck ako," Onwubere admitted when asked about his match-up against "The Beast." "Abueva 'yun eh."
"Pero siyempre, magkaiba kami ng team. We play to win," he stressed. "Ako talaga, gagawin ko 'yung best ko to defend him, and kung nabigyan ako ng pagkakataon on offense, shu-shoot-an ko siya."
TNT head coach Nash Racela was pleased with how Onwubere responded to the opportunity given to him. The rookie was given a chance to play as the KaTropa were undermanned, and he repaid his coach's trust.
"He showed everybody what he could do," Racela said of Onwubere. "He contributed on both ends. That will help us down the road."
Having gotten his first taste of PBA action, Onwubere is now determined to stay in TNT's rotation.
"Noong hindi ako nagamit last game, para sa akin additional motivation 'yun eh," said Onwubere, who earned Mythical Team honors in his last season in the NCAA. "Parang extra na pagkakataon to improve."
"'Yung ginawa ni Coach Nash na 'yun, pinush ako na ma-realize na may kailangan pa talaga ako i-add, para mag-improve pa," he said.
TNT next plays on January 13 against defending All-Filipino champion San Miguel Beer in Iloilo City.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)