GLANCING at the scoreboard one last time following Barangay Ginebra’s smashing 103-77 win over an off-form San Mig Coffee on Tuesday, Jayjay Helterbrand has become all the more convinced about two things.
One, the future suddenly looks rosy for the team. Two, the Kings are good enough to win now.
“From what I see, we’re a lot better now compared to the past years because we got younger and we’re now more versatile," Helterbrand told Spin.ph after helping the Gin Kings post their third win in five preseason games at the Xavier gym in San Juan.
"Mark (Caguioa) can always kick the ball out because we have younger players who can score from the outside anytime.”
The 5’11” Ginebra guard feels the team’s future is in good hands with the arrival of a platoon of youngsters capable of carrying on the Kings' never-say-die, winning tradition like Allen Maliksi and Dylan Ababou, Fil-Am rookies Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen and new starting guard LA Tenorio.
Helterbrand said Maliksi and Ababou, two guys who joined them in the middle of last season, have started to adjust well to the system of Gin Kings coach Siot Tanquingcen.
It was Maliksi, in fact, who set the tone for Ginebra’s resounding victory against the Coffee Mixers, scoring 13 of the team’s first 21 points as the Gin Kings jumped off to a quick 21-4 lead midway through the first period.
The lead eventually ballooned to 40-14 with Jensen and last year’s MVP Caguioa joining the scoring fray as the Gin Kings led from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Helterbrand said what he likes about the team's current batch of youngsters is their eagerness to learn, their desire to win and the fact that everyone is on the same page.
“Our Fil-Ams are really, really athletic. They bring so much energy to the team and their work ethic is just tremendous. They can dribble, they can jump and they work so hard during practice that it pushes us veterans to do more this off season,” added Helterbrand.
The team has suddenly become so deep that the 35-year-old Helterbrand, who has been with the Kings since 2000 season, has no qualms about accepting a reduced role with Tenorio expected to start at point guard this season.
The former league MVP said he is willing to embrace any role as the team bids to end a four-year title drought.
“I really like the mixture of veterans and younger players we have in this team. Even how the coaching staff set up our plays and our system has prepared us well during this offseason. There’s no ego and there’s no young guy trying to say, ‘This is my team and I’m gonna take over.’ We’re all on the same page,” he said.