PBA: Belga sees Converge rookie Arana as 'smaller version' of Fajardo

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 07 2022 12:45 PM | Updated as of Jun 07 2022 03:38 PM

Converge rookie Justin Arana (15) was solid in his PBA debut for the FiberXers. PBA Images.
Converge rookie Justin Arana (15) was solid in his PBA debut for the FiberXers. PBA Images.

MANILA, Philippines -- Rain or Shine big man Beau Belga was suitably impressed with Converge's Justin Arana, who made his PBA debut against the Elasto Painters on Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Belga and the E-Painters walked away with a hard-earned 79-77 win, thanks to veteran center's go-ahead three-pointer with 13 seconds left. Belga scored 17 points in the game, making six of his 16 field goals, and afterward he admitted that he was challenged by Arana's defense, especially inside the paint.

"Marunong siyang gumamit ng katawan, actually," Belga said of Arana, who was taken with the fourth overall pick by the FiberXers after a career-year with Arellano University in the NCAA Season 97 tournament.

The ROS veteran went as far as to compare Arana's build and physique to one of the best players in PBA history -- San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo.

"He [Arana] knows how to play physical. He's a smaller version of June Mar," Belga said. "Kung lumaki-laki 'to, medyo similar talaga sila ni June Mar."

At 6-foot-7, Arana is three inches shorter than the six-time PBA Most Valuable Player, but Belga sees similarities in how they use their bodies to bump their defenders out of position. On defense, Arana was able to hold his own even against the burly Belga.

That the rookie stood strong against him impressed Belga, who offered some words of advice to Arana even as he did his best to beat Converge.

"He knows how to use his body, kaya medyo nacha-challenge din kami. As a veteran, siyempre magkakaroon ka ng pride na hindi puwedeng pabasta-basta na lang," he said.

"Sinasabihan ko lang na laro lang. Laruin niya lang 'yung laro niya. Kasi, siyempre mga bago itong mga 'to dito eh," he added.

Arana finished with six points, nine rebounds, and three blocks in his debut, playing over 27 minutes. Afterward, he said he felt his first game was "okay" but understood that there are still plenty of things he needs to develop. 

He also expressed his gratitude to Belga for the words of encouragement that he offered during the game.

"Okay naman si Kuya Beau," said Arana. "Naga-advice rin naman siya sa akin, kahit nasa loob kami ng court. Laruin ko lang daw 'yung laro ko, at 'wag daw akong mahiya kasi pakapalan daw talaga ng mukha sa PBA."

Converge returns to action on Friday against the Magnolia Timplados Hotshots, while Arana will get a chance to face off against June Mar Fajardo when they play the San Miguel Beermen on June 26.

Belga and the Elasto Painters, meanwhile, will target a second win on Thursday against NorthPort.