Russel Escoto yet to break out, but Mahindra coach remains upbeat on rookie
Rookie Russel Escoto started at center for Mahindra but made just one of 12 attempts. Dante Peralta

IT was hardly a happy birthday for Russel Escoto on Sunday as he was all but non-existent and couldn’t help Mahindra from stopping its tailspin in the PBA Philippine Cup with a 114-104 loss to Phoenix.

Turning 24 on game day, the rookie big man missed all but one of his 12 attempts – the most in the team – to end up with just two points, along with six boards and one block against two turnovers in 24 minutes as the starting center.

“I was expecting him to get a big game today,” Floodbuster coach Chris Gavina said. “I was telling the coaching staff that we should call his number a little bit more, but it seemed like he’s a little gigil and trying to force the issue and kind of played out of his realm.”

[See Phoenix now benefiting from Wright stuff as top rookie makes up for lost time]

Hopes were high after Mahindra took Escoto in the special draft for Gilas cadets, but the 6-foot-6 slotman out of Far Eastern University has yet to put up a breakout performance in three games.

After Esocoto came off the bench in the loss to Rain or Shine, Gavina inserted his prized freshman against the Fuel Massters to no avail as counterpart Prince Caperal got the better of him.

But that hardly worries the young coach.

“Russel should be fine,” Gavina said. “I have more than enough confidence that he’ll bounce back.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos