MANILA, Philippines -- After scoring a combined nine points in their first three games, Alaska rookie Barkley Eboña had his breakout performance against Blackwater Elite on Tuesday night.
The big man out of Far Eastern University put up 24 points -- the most by a rookie so far in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup -- while making 10 of his 11 field goals in a highly efficient night. He also had two rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in Alaska's 120-82 whipping of the Elite.
Eboña, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft, said afterward that his teammates have been crucial in raising his confidence as he navigates his first season as a pro.
"Gina-grab ko lang 'yung opportunity na 'yun, and thankful ako na na-apply ko sa game ngayon," he said.
Head coach Jeff Cariaso said they are pleased with Eboña's progress. The rookie had four points in his debut against TNT Tropang Giga but went scoreless in their next game against Meralco. He then had five points and five boards against Magnolia last Saturday.
Against a Blackwater team that lacked the ceiling to stop him, Eboña repeatedly found himself open for easy buckets.
"We're happy with the growth of Barkley, but to be honest we had a plan for him," said Cariaso. "He's still learning and improving."
"What I like about him is his fight. This kid is tough as nails," he added.
A lot of credit should go to Alaska assistant coach Danny Ildefonso, as the former PBA Most Valuable Player has taken Eboña under his wing. Cariaso revealed that even during the lockdown, "Lakay" kept in touch with their rookie to give pointers and advice.
"He's lucky that he has Coach Danny as a mentor," said Cariaso of Eboña. "I told him, 'Just listen to Coach Danny, you'll be okay.'"
"Aside from the constant Zoom workouts that we were doing, coach Danny was always talking to him," he explained. "So whether it's just a personal call with Barkley, he would always make sure that during the workout, he was addressing his bigs."
It's not just Eboña who benefits from Ildefonso's mentorship: Cariaso said Ildefonso treats the Alaska big men like his own children.
While Eboña emerged as the Best Player of the Game, sophomore forward Abu Tratter also shone, with 14 points and six rebounds in just 21 minutes. Yutien Andrada and Rodney Brondial also got plenty of minutes in the blowout win, combining for four points and eight rebounds.
"Alagang-alaga sila kay Coach Danny," he said. "So again, there's not much you can do, but again, to strengthen, to be ready to play, to improve your cardio, so that's what we did and that's what Danny was continuously barking on."