SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria is keeping his faith in Arwind Santos as the Beermen seek to extend their PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Alaska further starting in Game Five on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Santos has been a pale shadow of his true self, making just 14 of his 56 shots for a paltry 25 percent from the field in the first four games of the series.
But the former league MVP remains high in the trust ratings of Austria.
“I’ve always believed in Arwind Santos,” the champion coach said. “He’s been struggling especially from three-point area. And I think the media did a good job dahil siguro nababasa niya yung criticism sa kanya.”
“But he’s trying his best,” he was quick to add. “Medyo nape-pressure lang dahil wala si June Mar (Fajardo).”
[See Offensive struggles continue, but Arwind Santos vows to keep shooting]
The spotlight naturally fell on Santos when Fajardo went down with a knee injury in their last game of the semifinals.
But the versatile forward, the hero of the last Philippine Cup, has yet to deliver his vintage performance, although he contributed in the clutch in Game Four where he scored on a crucial stab that gave them the lead for the first time since the second quarter, and blocked a shot by Cyrus Baguio in a crucial play in the extra session.
“He showed some semblance of being a superstar and a leader: he’s the one encouraging his teammates,” Austria said. “That’s enough inspiration for them. The players have just been waiting for somebody to be a leader.”
But Santos’ presence should also reflect in the stat sheet for the Beermen to stay alive.