ROOKIE forward Ian Sangalang, an avid Barangay Ginebra fan, says his heart now belongs to San Mig.
The 6-5 forward from Pampanga admitted idolizing Ginebra stars Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand growing up and dreaming of playing for the team one day, but he insisted all that changed when he was picked No. 2 overall by San Mig in the last PBA rookie draft.
“Wala na 'yan eh (desire to play for Ginebra). Maglalaro ako ng buong puso ko sa San Mig at ibibigay ko lahat ko sa San Mig,” Sangalang said with conviction on Sunday night following the Mixers’ 69-86 loss at the hands of the Gin Kings on opening day.
Sangalang has expressed his desire to play for Ginebra in the weeks leading up to the draft. But the former San Sebastian star said he was professional enough to accept his fate after Ginebra opted to select 6-11 center Greg Slaughter ahead of him at No. 1 overall.
“Wala na ako sa Ginebra. Tapos na 'yun kaya dito ako (sa San Mig) magfo-focus,” he said.
The former NCAA and PBA D-League MVP fired eight points, grabbed four rebounds and issued two assists in 23 minutes in his pro debut while valiantly battling Ginebra’s new 'Twin Towers' of Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar inside the paint.
After the 17-point blowout before more than 20,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Sangalang vows to learn as much as he can from coach Tim Cone’s complicated system in the hope of contributing right away to the team’s title drive this season.
“Mahirap talaga na may ganung malalaki (na kalaban), kada shoot mo, nandiyan sila,” said Sangalang. “At may pressure din kasi nage-expect din mga fans at team na maglalaro ako ng mabuti, pero kailangan ko pa i-improve ang sarili ko sa next game at gagawin ko best ko pag nasa loob ako ng court.”
San Mig swings back to action on Friday in search for its first win for the season when it tangles with fellow opening-day loser Alaska at the Cuneta Astrodome.