MARC Pingris gauges his remaining defensive prowess by taking on the challenge of Mac Belo as Star and Blackwater face off in the PBA Philippine Cup later in the day at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Hotshots are taking the court at 4:15 p.m. against an Elite side that’s parading arguably the best player in the 2016 rookie class in Belo, who has instantly turned his team from cellar-dwellers into playoff contenders.
“Maganda pinapakita niya. All around nga siya eh – nagre-rebound, dumedepensa, tumitira sa labas, so kailangan bantayan ko,” Pingris said with a chuckle in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice. “Siya yung big factor ng Blackwater ngayon kaya umangat sila.”
Turning serious, Pingris, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is eager to get the assignment of shadowing Belo, who won’t turn 24 until February 12.
“Sana nga ako eh (ang dumepensa sa kanya),” the 35-year-old Hotshots star said. “Sa akin, sa edad kong ito, gusto kong ma-depensahan yung mga batang magagaling eh, ma-testing kung saan na ba talaga ako.”
“Pero hindi naman Pingris against Belo yan, kundi Star Hotshots against Belo,” he was quick to add.
The Hotshots certainly have to do it as a unit not just against Belo but the entire Elite, who have been flashing their newfound depth with Gilas call-up Art dela Cruz, Roi Sumang, Raymond Aguilar, Kyle Pascual, John Pinto, and Denok Miranda all putting up solid contributions.
With a balanced effort, the Elite have won five of their 10 games and are on the verge of securing only their second postseason berth in their three years in the league.
The Hotshots are also sporting an even 4-4 win-loss record and a victory will move them closer to maintaining their status as a perennial postseason squad.