MACAU —Blackwater’s young frontline is slowly living up to expectations.
JP Erram, Mac Belo and Raymar Jose have shown marked improvement in the Elite’s offseason buildup for the season-ending 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup, dishing out fine plays on Tuesday against Seoul Samsung Thunders in the Asia League Super 8 2018.
With import Henry Walker relegated to coaching, the three led Blackwater in stunning the Korean squad, to the delight of coach Bong Ramos.
Against Seoul Samsung’s bruisers, Erram muscled his way to 20 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and three steals to lead the charge for the Elite.
Ramos was the least surprised with the performance of the former Ateneo big man, but wishes that the 29-year-old could show more maturity as he takes on a larger role as one of the team’s leaders.
“Si Poy naman, yan talaga ang ibibigay niya. Kinakausap ko lang siya na kailangan lang niyang mag-mature pa ng konti, have some disipline and control kasi bigay na bigay siya kaya madaling napapagod,” he said. “Yung enthusiasm niya sa laro, sobra-sobra kaya kailangan lang marunong siya mag-control at mag-pacing.”
Belo, on the other hand, didn’t look like he was rusty at all in his first game since recovering from his ITB injury, pouring nine points and hauling down six rebounds in 16 minutes of play.
“Pinahinga ko na si Mac ng last four weeks kaya he missed yung huling dalawang laro. Unti-unti pa rin naman ang gamit ko sa kanya, pero siya mismo ang nagsasabi sa akin na ready na siya para sa third conference. So maganda para sa amin yun,” the bench tactician said.
Of the three, it was Jose who definitely seized the moment.
With Rabeh Al-Hussaini out due to a bruised Achilles and James Sena back in the Philippines to tend to his pregnant wife, Jose, the third pick in the 2017 PBA Draft, took advantage of the opportunity and posted 14 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal in 23 minutes of action.
Though Ramos hasn’t given Jose the lengthiest of playing times, the bench tactician still maintains his belief in the former FEU bruiser.
“Si Raymar naman kasi bagay talaga isabay kay Poy kasi may tira siya sa perimeter, marunong sita umatake, at kaya niyang bumantay mapa-maliit o mapa-malaki. Hopefully, ma-develop pa natin siya,” he said.
The upset win over Seoul Samsung may be seen as a rallying point for the Blackwater trio, but Ramos also sees great things with the whole team despite finishing in the cellar for the past two conferences.
“We’re developing our chemistry here and we’re just trying to be fluid defensively and offensively. So ako mismo, I can say na happy ako sa mga players,” he said.