YOU can imagine the pressure a rookie carries when he finds out he is starting for the first time in his pro career.
What more if he’s marking the milestone in a Finals series?
Yet Kevin Racal gave a good account of himself as he proved solid for Alaska in its 111-99 win over Rain or Shine in Game Four of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title series on Friday night.
Suddenly thrust into the starting lineup with Ping Exciminiano injured, the freshman forward hardly showed signs of jitters and finished with seven points on 2-of-3 shooting, three rebounds, two assists, against three turnovers in 19 minutes.
It was on the defensive end where the 6-foot-3 Racal made a bigger mark as he manned Elasto Painters star Paul Lee, who was held to 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting in 25 minutes.
“There are certain matchups we need to look at and Kevin is well taught defensively,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “He’s a tough kid. He came into a situation where the players in front of him were veterans.”
The 24-year-old Racal admitted he was surprised when he got the starting gig after playing just five minutes combined in two games he suited up this conference, both in the elimination round.
“Oo, (nagulat ako) kasi bago mag-start ng practice (nung Thursday), sabi ni coach Louie (Alas) na mag-start ako ngayon,” Racal recalled. “Ayun, sinwerte naman ako nung una pa lang so yung kumpyansa ko, tuloy-tuloy.”
“Talagang pinaghandaan ko 'yun simula kagabi,” he added. “Inisip ko kung anong mga dapat kong gawin.”
The former Letran star’s experience in the last NCAA Finals against San Beda proved handy.
Still, it was nothing compared to the pressure in the pros.
“Malaki pinagkaiba rito sa NCAA, siyempre,” Racal said. “Mga professional na ‘to lahat e, so nag-aadjust pa rin talaga ako sa physicality kasi sa NCAA, hindi naman ganun ka-pisikal eh.”
Compton, with the help of his coach staff, was glad their gamble paid off.
“We discussed it as a coaching staff, sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Hindi naman ako yung henyo rito.’ We talk a lot and in that discussion, we decided Kevin will be a good starter,” the American coach said.
“Kid’s tough, that’s the reason we drafted him. But again, it was the recommendation of coaches.”
Compton and his coaching staff continue to make adjustments as they try to extend the series further with a win in Game Five on Sunday.