DYLAN Ababou and Jens Knuttel partnered in a shooting drill - the last two players on the court at Barangay Ginebra's practice on Monday at Green Meadows Village in Quezon City.
Buried at the end of the Gin Kings’ bench nowadays, Ababou and Knuttel, a reserve player, have hardly broken sweat during PBA Philippine Cup games, so they are just cherishing their time in and after practice to hone their skills.
Despite their limited roles, they have priceless knowledge to offer on how to limit Mark Barroca, the straw that has been stirring San Mig Coffee in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Both players have known Barroca for a while. Ababou, the University of Santo Tomas product, teamed up with Barroca in the first version of Gilas Pilipinas for three years, while Knuttel was Barroca’s backcourt partner in Far Eastern University for also three seasons.
And they are proud of their former teammate, who leads the Mixers in scoring (14.5 points), assists (4.2), and steals (2.4), on top of averaging a solid 5.1 rebounds in 35.6 minutes in 17 games this conference.
“Yung nilalaro niya ngayon fruit yun ng hard work niya. Deserving siya sa success na nakukuha niya ngayon,” Ababou said of his Gilas teammate.
“Sobrang hardworking siya,” Knuttel said. “Isa siya sa mga grabe mag-extra work, kaya hindi ako nagtataka kung saan siya ngayon, kung paano siya maglaro kasi alam ko kung gaano siya ka-dedicated eh.”
But affinities will have to be set aside for now. And both Gin Kings definitely have an idea how to approach the Mixers star point guard in their best-of-seven semifinal series starting with Game One on Tuesday night.
“Siguro kailangan ma-release niya yung bola,” Ababou said. “Kung hawak niya yung bola, may mga gagawin kami para mapilitin siyang ipasa, kasi pag hawak niya yung bola nakaka-create siya tapos nakakatira siya. At pag nakakatira siya, nakukuha niya yung rhythm niya.”
“Kailangan maalis namin siya sa comfort zone niya na hindi siya maka-create,” added the Kings forward of Barroca, who is fresh from an 18-point, 12-rebound, five-assist, two-steal performance in their deciding quarterfinal victory that dethroned Talk ‘N Text on Sunday night.
“Si Mark kasi talaga ang barometer ng SMC,” Knuttel said of his fellow Zamboangueno. “Siya talaga nagdadala ng play, siya nag-eexecute at siya ang nag-didictate ng tempo talaga.”
And Ababou, who has been relegated to the third team despite being fully healed from a long knee injury, would rather have the Mixers run their offense through their big men, spearheaded by Marc Pingris, than Barroca.
“We have to choose our poison — at siguro big men na lang,” Ababou said. “Bahala na mag-create ang big men.”