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    COLUMN: Jeron Teng's midseason work on jump shot starting to pay off

    Alaska star knows the jumper is one aspect of his game that needs improvement. So he did something about it
    Dec 9, 2021
    Alaska star Jeron Teng scored 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting against NorthPort on Wednesday.
    Alaska star Jeron Teng scored 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting against NorthPort on Wednesday.
    PHOTO: PBA Images
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    Jeron Teng does not lack self-awareness.

    After a dismal showing in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup that wasn't exactly his idea of justifying Alaska's decision to sign him to a three-year extension earlier this year, the 27-year-old wing wasted no time seeking a more enterprising fix for the small problem that has admittedly ailed him for the most part: his jumper.

    "I’ve been working with a trainer to improve my jump shot," Teng bared. "After we got home from the last bubble, I just rested for a few days tapos I worked out na with this trainer. I really want to improve my shooting so I can help out the team more."

    Teng recognizes this blemish in his offensive repertoire and says he has long worked on finding a certain level of consistency with his shot. But none of the solutions he has tried in the past approximates the benefits of working with a shot trainer — a decision that should help the former La Salle star finally scrape his high ceiling on offense.

    "I’m always working on my shot, trying to improve. I know that’s one aspect of my game that I really need to improve," he said. "Our team really played horrible last conference, so that's why I really want to have a better conference to help the team out."

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    Alaska got off to a slow 2-4 start to the season but got knocked out of orbit after being sidelined by health and safety protocols for two weeks in September and ended up losing four of their last five contests.

    Teng wasn't part of the problem, but he didn't provide answers either, managing just 8.5 points on 38.8-percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.0 steals in just 21.1 minutes. Poor shooting from beyond the arc (11.1-percent) and from the free throw line (55.6) exacerbated the issues and resulted in a 43.9 true shooting percentage (TS%), which was the second-lowest figure among Alaska players who played more than 15 minutes a game, per DribbleMedia.com.

    At his best, Teng covers up his shaky shot by being a downhill force able to score at the rim or hit open guys for an easy feed while in movement. He's not the same wrecking ball that barrelled through opposing defenders in the UAAP — at 6'2 and without elite foot speed, bullying older, bigger, and more experienced defenders in the PBA is a little tougher to do — but he still gets the job done when he's able to kick into high gear, especially in certain actions or in on-the-fly situations where he attacks a defense that has eyes turned elsewhere:

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    Playing Teng off the ball and letting him thrive in cuts and in handoffs has its advantages, but once defenders close those gaps, his shooting problems become apparent. His previous conference, a result of factors beyond their control, should be an outlier, but it's hard to believe Teng — who shot 39.8 percent from the field in his first three seasons — is satisfied with his shot creation when opponents stonewall his drives.

    During catch-and-shoot and spot-up opportunities, or when Teng couldn't find a crack to exploit as teams switched or went under screens in drop coverage, the result often wasn't pretty:

    LOOK:

    In theory, an improved jumper will change all that.

    "I really started with form shooting. We corrected mistakes. And my trainer is very particular with small details. Tapos more of getting repetitions," Teng explained.

    Teng making defenses respect his jumper means he'll get to create more open shots for his teammates — an aspect of the game that he's already good at. It's not often discussed, but he's actually one of the league's better secondary playmakers and one of the most proficient passers in motion.

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    His drives command attention and open passing windows that weren't available in the first place. Teng's also adept at making split-second passes in the open break or in the half-court, and while some passes in drives feel pre-determined, he has a pretty good feel for where his teammates are located:

    His assist numbers have steadily risen prior to the previous all-Filipino tournament. And despite recording just 2.6 dimes last conference, Teng still assisted on 22.9-percent of his teammates' shots, good for a spot inside the league's Top 20, per DribbleMedia.com. (He ranked fourth in the PBA back in 2020.) Teng's careful passing also earned him a spot inside the top four among all players in their passer rating, or the measure of passing efficiency.

    "[An improved jumper] will help me a lot because when I start hitting shots, defenders will start closing out on me, thus making it easier for me to attack and create for myself and my teammates. " he said. "When I’m inside the court, I don't only focus on myself, I’m also focused on making my teammates better."

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    Of course, shooting isn't the only aspect of Teng's game that needs improvement, with Aces coach Jeff Cariaso mentioning other areas like "offensive rebounding, running the floor, posting up," and "cutting and diving" where he can make a bigger impact.

    "He’s been a true professional. Always has been. He works hard everyday, buys into what we are trying to achieve," Cariaso said. "JT is our Swiss Army knife. He can be productive in many ways. That’s why he plays."

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      Teng flashed some of his gains in Alaska's Governors' Cup debut on Wednesday, when they hacked out a narrow 87-85 win against NorthPort. He was nothing short of impactful and scattered 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds, three assists, and a block in 30 minutes of play.

      Most of his points came via floaters and push shots, and he only made 1-of-4 threes, but what matters more is that he showed a lot of confidence in his improved shooting stroke. If Teng keeps hitting these, teams will have to think twice before ducking under screens or playing a deep drop coverage against him:

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      He'll also look closer to being the guy that Alaska had in mind when they inked him to that multi-year extension — a deal that, according to Cariaso, "shows how much we see JT being a huge part of the future of Alaska. It proves the trust we have in him."

      Feeling blessed

      "It just motivates me to work even harder. I’m blessed that the franchise gave me this opportunity," Teng remarked. "As a player, I’ve always been the type to strive to get better each and every day. That’s what I learned from my dad. That everyday is an opportunity to get better."

      "I’m looking forward to applying everything I worked on this off season. Really excited about it."

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      Alaska star Jeron Teng scored 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting against NorthPort on Wednesday.
      PHOTO: PBA Images
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