THERE’S nothing that builds someone’s draft stock more than winning a championship.
And for key cogs of Go for Gold’s conquest in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup, they are hoping that the scouts took exception on how they performed in the Scratchers’ championship drive.
“Hopefully, next is a PBA championship. We'll see what will happen but that's the goal,” said Vince Tolentino, who is priming himself to enter the 2018 PBA Draft later this year.
Tolentino has proven himself capable to be a two-way threat after his time in Ateneo, averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists for the conference. But for him, what meant more to him was learning under the wings of his veteran teammates and battling seasoned foes which he believes toughened him up once he makes the jump.
“I'm one of the younger ones in this team, but it's the first time I experienced high-level basketball. Winning this championship wasn't easy for us, and learning from these players was an experience in itself,” he said.
The same can be said of his fellow Blue Eagle Kris Porter, who treasured this chance to showcase his abilities in the developmental ranks with Go for Gold.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to play really hard in both of my D-League conferences is because I didn't get a lot of exposure when I was in Ateneo. I wanted to prove to every one that I could play at the next level,” he said.
Porter, who netted 9.9 points on a 48-percent field goal shooting, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, relished the discipleship he’s had this conference under grizzled veteran Jerwin Gaco, saying, “They taught me a lot.
“In the past, I've always had my way by just bullying my way in the post, but kuya Jerwin has been a big help in terms of skills. I had to think and use everything that I learned. Every game, everyone had a say on how I can improve my game and I personally appreciate that a lot. Going to the draft, I want to prepare myself as much as possible and everything they tell me is helping me do that.”
For Matt Salem, though, he remains hungry despite being a vital piece of the Scratchers’ triumph and averaging 10.3 points on a 37-percent clip from threes, on top of 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 steals.
“I'll put my name in the draft. I'll take a swing at it, but I'll work until the draft comes,” he said.
Salem, the former NU Bulldog who made waves this past conference as he became only the sixth player to register a triple-double in PBA D-League history, admits that he’s still far from his desired form as he takes the next months as a chance for him to further hone his skills before entering the pros.
“I'm still working my way to getting to hit the professional level. I think I have a long way to go. I know my flaws and I know my strengths, but I worked on it here in the D-League and in the MPBL,” he said. “To get to the professional level, I still have a lot to learn. This was a good experience for me and I learned a lot from coach Charles (Tiu). He did a lot for me, but it's still a long way to go from what he wants me to be.”
Ron Dennison, meanwhile, is just confident that no matter what, these players have proven themselves as winners.
“Plus points na rin sa amin yun na may championship kami, na may attitude kami as winners,” the gritty FEU defender said after posting 7.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists for the conference.
Though these four have already achieved success in the collegiate ranks winning titles with their respective schools, a championship in the PBA D-League is still a different beast of its own.
And with this recent success, it’s safe to say that all four deserve a long, hard look from the scouts as they all vie to have their names called in the draft.