AS KIA Motors guard LA Revilla ran rings around Blackwater guards in the Sorento's 80-66 win, the question running in the minds of Elite followers was: Where is promising guard Brian Heruela?
During the last PBA rookie camp, Heruela was one of those who made heads turn with his quickness, good ball handling, near flawless shooting and pesky defense, even drawing comparison to Rain or Shine star Paul Lee.
But at the height of Revilla’s 14-point third-quarter rampage on Sunday, the wide-bodied Cebuano guard could only watch helplessly from the bench - in street clothes.
“I am on the reserve list,” Heruela, taken in the third round at 26th overall by Blackwater, told Spin.ph when he was asked about his status after the game.
Long before the season began, Heruela was already relegated to the reserve list by Blackwater which went for veterans Paul Artadi and Chris Timberlake and rookie Juami Tiongson in the backcourt.
Blackwater's guards, however, lapsed into one turnover after another when KIA turned the game around in the second half. Worse, no one was able to stop the red-hot Revilla.
This is where former Big Chill team manager Paul Vincent Lee thought Heruela could have helped the Blackwater’s cause.
"Nalulungkot talaga ako para kay Brian. Marunong naman tayong mag-basketball kaya nakita mo naman kung paano pinaglaruan ng point guard ng Kia yung Blackwater,” said Lee.
“Sana man lang nabigyan nila ng tsansa, yung bata naman gustong gustong maglaro para sa Blackwater niyan eh para ma-prove niya yung sarili niya, kaso di nabigyan ng pagkakataon,” he added.
The longtime team executive of businessman James Tiu believes the wide body, speed and physique of Heruela could have helped slow down Revilla, who went on to finish with a career-high 23 points.
“Hindi ko naman siguro magaga-guarantee ng panalo (for Blackwater kung andun si Brian), pero definitely, hindi makaka-score ng 23 points si LA (kung andun si Heruela),” he said.
“Stopper yang si Heruela eh. Kwatro nga binabatanyan niyan. Hindi ko minamaliit si LA ha, pero I don’t think he can score that much kung andun si Brian,” added Lee.
The outspoken Big Chill boss also expressed full confidence in the game of Heruela, who once put himself in the running for the Best Player of the Conference award in the D-League.
“Nanghihinayang talaga ako kasi naging player ko yun eh,” said Lee of Big Chill’s most consistent player in the last two seasons. “Siguro kung kilala ko siya na hindi ganun (kagaling), bakit ko naman siya ipu-push o ipaglalaban kung alam kong tanga 'yon (lumaro).”
Listen to podcast of full interview with Paul Vincent Lee:
Though he was surprised to see the former University of Cebu Webmaster relegated to the reserve list, Lee said he believes the Blackwater coaching staff saw something in the veteran tandem of Artadi and Timberlake.
“Actually, ini-expect ko na before the conference mala-lineup siya. Pero desisyon ni coach Leo (Isaac) 'yun eh. Wala tayong magagawa run. (Siguro) kilala nila yung players nila na pinasok nila,” he said.
But Lee has one question in mind: “Sana na lang kung ganun ang gagawin nila sa tao, hindi na lang sana nila dinraft!”
Heruela is reportedly being eyed by other teams including Talk 'N Text, Barako Bull and Meralco.