MANILA, Philippines -- He has to wait a bit longer to make his debut in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), but Barangay Ginebra rookie Arvin Tolentino has already received plenty of motivation from his head coach, Tim Cone.
Cone made it clear that he has plenty of expectations from all of his rookie players -- including Tolentino, whom the Gin Kings selected with the 10th overall pick of the first round back in December 2019.
"I think the rookies will have an impact this year," Cone said.
Of Tolentino, he said: "I just think that he is uber-talented. 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. But he plays a lot like Arwind Santos."
His coach's sentiments certainly flattered Tolentino, who was the UAAP Rookie of the Year in Season 77 for Ateneo de Manila University but eventually transferred to Far Eastern University, where he finished his collegiate career.
He helped the Tamaraws reach the Final 4 in Season 81, his final year in the UAAP.
"Nakakataba ng puso makarinig ng ganoon," said Tolentino, a 6-foot-5 big man known for his outside shooting and scoring prowess.
"But 'yun nga, hindi naman doon nag-stop 'yung trabaho para sa akin," he said. "Kumbaga, sabi nga ni coach na marami pa kong kailangan trabahuhin, hindi lang 'yung offense, hindi lang skills."
"Siyempre, nandoon din 'yung defense, 'yung extra effort," he added.
To be compared to Santos, an FEU legend, only fuels Tolentino's drive even more. However, the rookie is also the first to acknowledge that he has a long way to go to match what Santos can bring on the court.
As Cone put it, Tolentino "doesn't have the edge that Arwind has."
"If he ever develops that edge… he can turn out to be another Arwind," the coach said.
"Me, I know myself naman," said Tolentino. "Alam ko 'yung mga nabibigay ko sa court, and alam ko rin 'yung negative na parang kulang pa sa akin. So 'yun nga, as early as now, kumbaga rookie pa lang ako, iwo-work ko na."
Tolentino counts himself lucky that he landed in the Ginebra franchise, where he can learn from a coach of Cone's caliber as well as players like Mark Caguioa and LA Tenorio. It doesn't hurt that he has been a fan of the Gin Kings since childhood, as is his whole family.
"Sobrang blessed ako na na-draft ako sa PBA, tapos sa favorite team ko pa," he said.
However, it remains to be seen when Tolentino -- as well as the other Ginebra rookies in Jerrick Balanza and Kent Salado -- can make their debut for Ginebra. The PBA is still in limbo, with all of its activities suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams also cannot practice together, in light of the enhanced community quarantine.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).