MANILA, Philippines -- Arvin Tolentino is taking in stride the shock trade that sent him to the NorthPort Batang Pier after two seasons with the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.
Tolentino's time with the Gin Kings came to an end just before the start of the 2022 PBA Commissioner's Cup, when Ginebra sent him and Prince Caperal to NorthPort in exchange for Jamie Malonzo.
Tolentino was admittedly surprised by the trade, especially after a strong showing in the All-Filipino Cup where he averaged 11.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game for the Gin Kings.
"Nakakagulat, actually, to be honest. Nagulat ako nung sinabi sa 'kin. Parang ang bilis ng pangyayari. Monday, nagpa-practice ako with Ginebra, having fun with my teammates," said Tolentino, who was selected with the 10th overall pick by the Gin Kings in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft.
"Then after practice, sinabihan akong na-trade ako sa NorthPort. The next day, I was practicing with NorthPort na," he added. "Different environment, different teammates, bagong system, bago lahat."
Tolentino had just one day to get used to the idea of playing for a new team: on Wednesday, he made his debut for the Batang Pier when they opened their Commissioner's Cup campaign against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
Despite not being familiar with the system being ran by Pido Jarencio, Tolentino still had an impact in NorthPort's 92-89 win. He played over 36 minutes, contributing 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks, and two steals.
"I understand that it's part of being a pro. 'Yun lang iniisip ko. Iilan lang naman ang hindi nata-trade sa career nila," said Tolentino of his mindset. "We got our first win today. I'm happy."
-- FAVORITE TEAM --
Playing for Ginebra had been a dream come true for Tolentino, a former UAAP Rookie of the Year who grew up rooting for the Gin Kings. The four conferences that he spent with the perennial crowd favorites will always be among his fondest memories, the forward said.
"Siyempre, nanghihinayang ako kasi Ginebra was my favorite team growing up. To be honest, until now. Fan pa rin ako ng Ginebra hanggang ngayon," said Tolentino.
"'Yun 'yung best years of my basketball career, playing with my favorite team, playing in front of millions of fans, under arguably the best coach in the Philippines ever, and with the company," he added.
"Sayang, but that's life. NorthPort naman, I'm sure they really wanted me in the trade."
This is the mindset that Tolentino is now holding on to as he adjusts to life with the Batang Pier. He was not the lone Ginebra player that NorthPort acquired; they also got Caperal, while Jeff Chan and Kent Salado joined the team after a separate three-team trade that also involved San Miguel.
Jarencio said after Wednesday's win that all four players will be key contributors for NorthPort as they hope to make a run in the conference.
"I'm motivated," said Tolentino. "New team, and I want to prove to my teammates and to the coaches and to the management na dahil gusto nila ako... actually 'yun ang iniisip ko eh. Na-trade ako dahil gusto ako nina coach Pido at ng NorthPort."
"So I will prove to them na hindi sila nagkamali. 'Yun 'yung mentality na nilalagay ko. Wala nang time para mag-dwell na sayang, I was with Ginebra. Wala nang time para malungkot," he added.
"I don't want to think na ayaw sa 'kin ng Ginebra. I'm thinking I'm here dahil gusto ako nila coach."
-- NEW SYSTEM --
After helping NorthPort start their conference on a high note, Tolentino now has two days to further learn their system before they play again. The Batang Pier have a tough assignment on Saturday as they play the guest team Bay Area Dragons.
The Dragons are coming off a record-setting 133-87 rout of the Blackwater Bossing, also on Wednesday night.
"Pagkasabi pa lang sa 'kin na na-trade, shinift ko na agad 'yung focus ko -- na I have to learn the system, I have to jell with my teammates," said Tolentino.
"'Yun nga, kahapon nung practice inaral ko agad, 'yung mga plays and how my teammates play, although kilala ko naman sila kasi nakakalaban ko sila, 'yung iba naging teammates ko pa. 'Yung focus ko talagang malalim since yesterday," he added.
While he was solid in his debut for NorthPort, Tolentino wants to continue to improve and expand his skill set. One of his goals, he said, is to improve his scoring skills even further and avoid being tagged as a "one-dimensional" player.
"Ayoko maging one-dimensional player na catch-and-shoot lang tapos kapag wala, wala na," he said. "Ang goal ko talaga is every conference, every year nagi-improve, absorbing everything, especially sa IQ, sa knowledge about the game. 'Yun 'yung goal ko."
"Sakto napunta ako rito sa NorthPort -- may chance ako to expand talaga, to really improve and use 'yung mga winork ko through the years."
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