Rookie Van Opstal still raw but sky's the limit for him, says SMB coach Austria
San Miguel winds down practice on Monday. Karlo Sacamos

SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria admitted Arnold Van Opstal remains a work in progress, but believes the sky is the limit for the Gilas cadet.

“It will depend on him on how fast he can catch up sa skills and strength ng mga big men namin,” Austria said after practice on Monday. “But considering his height is ideal, pwede siya maging sparring partner ng mga malalaki namin.”

“It’s up to him, kasi medyo raw pa ng konti kasi one year siya nawala eh,” the champion coach added of the 6-foot-9 slotman, who was sidelined for 10 months to recover from an Achilles injury.

First off for Van Opstal is developing into a capable backup for cornerstone June Mar Fajardo, the coach said.

“What I want is for him to focus on his conditioning first para maging sparring partner siya ni June Mar,” Austria said. “As of now, malayo pa siya kay June Mar, but it’s a good opportunity for him dahil ang katapat niya dito ay mga veteran na big men.”

[See Former scoring champion Gary David released by San Miguel]

Fighting for minutes against SMB’s big men, especially Fajardo, is the last thing on Van Opstal's mind.

“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” the Filipino-German big man said. “I’m just happy to play my role on this team and whatever this team needs of me, I’ll be there and try my best to provide it. if I need to be on the bench, I’ll be on the bench. If I need to be on the court, I’ll be there.”

Although he’s mentally ready, Van Opstal admitted he’s not yet in tip-top physical shape.

“If you take ten months off, obviously it would affect the development, right? But mentally, I’m stronger than ever,” said AVO, who turns 25 next month. “That’s what I wanted to be when I go into the pros.”

“Physically, not yet,” he was quick to add. “I’m giving myself a timeline of a couple of months, maybe three or four months, and by that time, I want to be at my peak, hopefully stronger and more athletic than I’ve ever been."

"I’m getting my diet right, starting my workouts, resting well, really focusing on my body," Van Opstal continued. "That’s the most important part for me: to be in the most athletic shape of my life.”


Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos