PBA: Cone has high expectations from Ginebra rookies

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2020 12:23 PM

Ginebra took Letran's Jerrick Balanza with the first pick of the second round. PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines -- Ginebra fans have yet to see their team's rookies in action in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, as the league's activities remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, head coach Tim Cone assures that their new players -- Arvin Tolentino, Jerrick Balanza, and Kent Salado -- all have the potential to make an impact for the squad when they eventually step onto the court.

Ginebra took Tolentino, formerly of Far Eastern University, with the tenth overall pick, and Letran's Balanza with the 13th overall pick. Arellano's Salado, meanwhile, was selected as the 22nd overall pick by the Gin Kings.

"We got a couple of young rookies that we really like, and we believe will make an impact this conference," Cone had said during the league's Media Day.

At the time, both Tolentino and Balanza had just practiced for less than a week with the Gin Kings, but Cone already liked what he saw from both players.

Balanza, a do-it-all swingman who led the Knights to the NCAA Season 95 title, stood out to him.

"He really stands out, and the coaching staff really likes him," Cone said. "He plays both sides of the floor."

Tolentino, a known scorer during his UAAP days, was described as "uber talented" by the multi-titled head coach.

FEU's Arvin Tolentino was the 10th overall pick in the "regular" draft. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

"He has tremendous talent. He's just trying to figure out how best to use it, and how to use it in the concept of the team and how to use it consistently all the time," Cone said of Tolentino.

"But he plays a lot like Arwind Santos," he added, comparing the 6-foot-4 Tolentino to San Miguel's veteran forward. "He has those kinds of skills that Arwind has, the kind of instincts and skills. He just doesn't have the edge that Arwind has."

"If he ever develops that edge… he can turn out to be another Arwind. He really could. He's got that kind of level of talent."

Cone had yet to see Salado in practice at the time, as the former Arellano point guard was still under contract with his MPBL team. However, the coach was confident that Salado could contribute to Ginebra as well.

"We like his feistiness. It's something that we're looking for," he said.

Ginebra fans can thus look forward to three impactful rookies when the league resumes its games -- provided that they earn their playing time in practice, said Cone.

"Everybody says I don't play rookies (but) I played rookies all throughout my whole career," he noted. "But they gotta prove it. They gotta prove that they deserve to play."

Cone pointed out that he gave major minutes to players like Scottie Thompson, Mike Cortez, and Johnny Abarrientos during their freshman years.

"These guys have the same opportunity," he said.

It remains to be seen when the PBA will resume its games as the entirety of Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Last week, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said he had barred teams from practicing for two weeks as another precautionary measure.

So far, the only Philippine Cup game to push through was the season-opener between defending All-Filipino champion San Miguel Beer and Magnolia, with the Beermen taking the victory 94-78. 

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).