BRIAN Heruela was no more than a spectator as a reserve when Blackwater lost its first-ever game in the PBA at the hands of fellow expansion franchise KIA Motors in the opener of the Philippine Cup last October.
Now the Elite’s starting point guard, the rookie cager made sure his team would get its payback against the Carnival in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Heruela delivered the best game of his young pro career on Saturday, posting all-around numbers as the Elite whipped the Carnival, 115-104, for their second win in the import-spiced conference.
The 25-year-old playmaker registered 27 points, making 9-of-14 shots from the field and all his eight attempts from the charity stripe, eight rebounds, and seven assists, on top of one steal and one block in 39 minutes.
“I’m just thankful that it went my way,” said Heruela, last year's 26th overall draft pick, who played just three games last conference after being for the most part of the all-Filipino conference on the reserve list. “I was able to hit some shots for my team and thank God we got this win.”
The stocky court general also put up a solid job defensively, shadowing KIA counterpart LA Revilla, the hero of the Carnival’s opening-day win at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
After scattering 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the 80-66 win last October, the pint-sized playmaker from La Salle was held to just eight points on 4-of-9 shooting in the second meeting between the expansion teams.
“I just looked to contain him and luckily he wasn’t able to make a lot of shots,” said Heruela, whose splendid performance on both ends earned him praise from coach Leo Isaac.
“For a rookie, he’s maturing well,” Isaac said. “Malakas 'yung katawan nung bata, sometimes lang uncontrolled. But he listens well and he takes our advice seriously and hopefully, he will develop into a very good point guard.”
Heruela’s fine showing this season has not gone unnoticed as he is set to participate in three events in the upcoming All-Star weekend in Palawan, namely, the Rookie-Sophomore game, Obstacle Challenge, and Three-point shootout.
“I’m looking forward to it and just have fun,” said the University of Cebu product, the Elite’s only representative in the midseason extravaganza. “It’s not only for me, but for the rest of the Blackwater organization.”