AS another bumper crop of high-quality rookie guards invade the PBA this season, Barangay Ginebra’s veteran playmaker Jayjay Heltebrand said he has done his homework this offseason to ensure he can keep pace with the younger turks.
At 37 now one of the senior citizens in the pro league, Helterbrand has nonetheless shown in two preseason games for Ginebra that he still has some of the old explosiveness and pinpoint shooting that made him the 2008-2009 PBA MVP.
The 5’11” guard out of Kentucky State University attributes his longevity to his early offseason training.
“I only took a two-week break after nung talo namin sa Petron (in the Governors Cup quarterfinals). Then, I started right away with Doc Bong (Basilio, Ginebra’s trainer),” Helterbrand shared to Spin.ph.
Since Ginebra coach Ato Agustin wants the team to be committed to playing pressure defense, Helterbrand said he made it a point to be in the best of shape entering the season.
“I really made a point for this season to get in shape. Iyung style kasi ni coach, pressure defense, so I need to be in shape to pressure (defenders) and run up and down the court” he said.
“So this offseason, I focused on my conditioning. I feel very good. I think my explosiveness is back,” added the Ginebra combo-guard, who for years, formed the 'Fast and the Furious' partnership with resident star Mark Caguioa.
Helterbrand actually displayed a quick first step during the team’s first preseason match last week, which ended with a 95-90 win by Ginebra over Rain or Shine.
The two-time Best Player of the Conference awardee netted 18 points, including a flurry of three-pointers in the second half to stave off Rain or Shine’s late-game rally.
Helterbrand said he also has reasons to believe that the Gin Kings are in a much better position to end their five-and-a-half-year title drought following the entry of 6’11” rookie big man Greg Slaughter and Fil-Canadian James Forrester this offseason.
“I really think we have a big chance this conference,” said Helterbrand. “We’re deep in every position. More importantly, everyone has a good attitude. Every guy who came in is very respectable, coachable and willing to learn. What more can you ask from your rookies?”
Ginebra is set to make its debut right in the pro league’s kick-off game for its 39th season when it faces San Mig Coffee on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.