SEVILLE, SPAIN - Standing toe to toe with one of the best little men in the NBA, LA Tenorio figured JJ Barea is not 5-foot-11 as he is listed in the US. Or at the most, the 5-7 Gilas Pilipinas guard said he is giving away no more than an inch to the Puerto Rican dynamo.
"Feeling ko kasing tangkad ko lang, e 5-7 lang ako," the national player from Ginebra said. "E si Jimmy (Alapag) nga, listed na 5-11 sa US. Si Jayson (Castro) naman, 5-11 'yon, mas matangkad si Jayson (kay Barea).
But as far as impact in a game is concerned, LA conceded Barea's is immeasurable.
Tenorio was left impressed after his head-to-head showdown with the Minnesota Timberwolves guard, who personally wrote finis to the Philippines' hopes of reaching the knockout phase of the 2014 Fiba World Cup in this charming capital of Andalucia province on Wednesday.
The Puerto Rican's audacious performance - a game-high 30 points including 10 in the final quarter when he almost single-handedly bailed his team out of a tough bind - enabled Tenorio to better understand why Barea stands 10 feet tall, even in the NBA.
"It's a mix of talent, smart, quickness, everything," Tenorio said when asked what makes Barea tick. "Kaya sa ganoong height n'ya, nasa NBA s'ya ng ganoon katagal.
"Ganoon sya kaliit, nasa NBA sya. That's impossible, di ba ... Kaya pala."
Among the three point guards of Gilas, the Ginebra star had the most success against Barea, scoring 18 points while keeping in step with the cat-quick Timberwolves guard on defense in some stretches.
Tenorio was left banged up and weary after the battle, but grateful for the experience.
"Going to the game, yon ang challenge ko. It's a very rare opportunity na may makakalaban ka ng NBA veteran na alam mo talagang magaling," said the former Ateneo standout.
"Nakakapagod, heto bugbog na bugbog, but it's a very nice experience," he added. "Kaya ganoon ang nilaro ko siguro dahil na-challenge talaga ako. My offense was a bonus na lang, but I had to match up with him defensively e naging okay rin (offense) kaya nakakapagod kasi pareho eh (offense and defense)."
Despite the loss, Tenorio is confident Gilas, especially its backcourt men, will come out of this experience a lot better - both individually and as a team.
"Magandang experience ito para saming mga guards," he said. "Ngayon alam na namin paano maglaro."