THE striking resemblance between Don Trollano and Junthy Valenzuela haven't escaped PBA fans.
It turned out the two are similar in more ways than one.
In a strange twist of fate, Rain or Shine rookie Trollano even bared that since he started playing basketball, he has always looked up to Valenzuela and his former Red Bull teammate Lordy Tugade as his idols.
“Si Junthy at Lordy (Tugade) ang idol ko talaga nuong araw,” said Trollano with a laugh, "kasi parehas kami ng ability, tumitira, duma-drive at malakas din kumuha ng rebound. Parehas kami ng laro.”
“Pero mas mabilis pa rin siguro si Junthy.”
Trollano didn't expect to be drafted in the second round at 15th overall by Rain or Shine, ahead of top prospects like Roi Sumang, Aljon Mariano, Simon Enciso and Michael Miranda, and was pleasantly surprised to end up under Yeng Guiao - who also molded the careers of Valenzuela and Tugade.
“Masaya nga po ako kasi kinuha ako ni coach Yeng. Nagulat din ako kasi hindi ko inaasahan na kukunin ako nila eh, ini expect ko nga talaga sa sarili ko early part ako ng third round,” said the former Adamson gunner.
“Nung draft nga sobrang kinakabahan ako kasi pakiramdam ko hindi ako makukuha, dahil wala talagang nakakapansin sa akin kahit mga article-article, kaya pinaubaya ko na lang kay God,” Trollano added.
Unknown to many, Trollano had an impressive series of practice with Rain or Shine prior to the draft that left quite an impression on Guiao.
“Napansin siya ni coach Yeng, kasi ang ganda ng mga nilaro niya sa ensayo namin bago yung draft,” said Rain or Shine assistant coach Caloy Garcia of Trollano, who also tried out for Ginebra, Mahindra and Alaska.
Asked how he feels playing for a coach known to turn little-known players into stars like Valenzuela, Tugade, Cyrus Baguio, Beau Belga and Jeff Chan, Trollano couldn't hide his excitement.
“Excited talaga ako at masaya na dito 'ko napunta kasi si coach Yeng binibigyan niya ng playing time 'yung mga rookie eh. Lahat ng mga rookie ginagamit niya. Ito talaga ang gusto ko,” he said.
“Saka dito free-wheeling, kumbaga, pwede kahit ano ang gawin mo kasi si coach Yeng bibigyan ka ng kumpiyansa.”
Trollano is also aware that playing under Guiao means abiding by the rules of the fiery mentor.
“Susunod lang talaga ako kung saan niya dadalhin ang career ko, gaya ng ginawa niya sa mga idol ko na sila Junthy at Lordy,” he said.
“Kahit hindi ako maging superstar, masaya na ko maging role player lang. Gagawin ko lang ang lahat para sa team. Kasi kaya niya (Guiao) ako kinuha kasi nakikita niya na mayroon pa kong pwede i-improve,” he said.
Trollano’s former coach at Adamson, Kenneth Duremdes, believes in the talent of his former gunner but admits he needs to improve on his toughness.
In fact, Duremdes even labels Trollano as a better shooter and scorer than Valenzuela.
“Mas maganda ang kamay niyan. Scorer talaga 'yan, talent-wise meron na yung bata eh,” said Duremdes, a former PBA MVP and named one of the 25 Greatest Players of the PBA.
The youngster can only get better under Guiao's tutelage, added Duremdes.
“Scorer yan kaya lang medyo kampante siya eh. Medyo relax kasi yan minsan lumaro. Pero pag na-align ni coach Yeng yan, deadly yan,” he said.
“Nakikita ko nga na tama ang team na napasok niya kasi kulang sa pukpok pa ng kaunti minsan si Don saka wala siyang toughness minsan, yun ang makukuha niya kay coach Yeng,” said Duremdes.
"Sa ngayon kasi hindi siya tough player like Junthy. Pero nasa kanya pa rin yan. Pag naging tough si Don, okay yan."
View video of interview with Don Trollano: