New boy Paolo Taha ready to fight for minutes in crowded Ginebra backcourt
“Every time we played against him, he killed us whether it’s in GlobalPort or Mahindra,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone says of Paolo Taha. Jaime Campos

PAOLO Taha doesn’t mind starting from scratch as he relishes the opportunity to play for the PBA’s most popular team and the league’s most successful coach.

The incoming third-year shooting guard had blossomed into a rising star at Mahindra, averaging 11 points on 48.5-percent shooting, 3.2 boards, and 1.4 assists in 23.9 minutes in the elimination round of his only conference with the Enforcer in the Governors’ Cup.

But he’ll have to start all over under coach Tim Cone after being traded to Ginebra, which gave up two players for him in Denice Villamor and Frank Bonifacio.

“Hindi ganun (negative) ang mindset ko dun,” Taha said after his first practice. “Syempre blessing talaga ‘to na mapunta ako sa team na ‘to. Excited lang ako na matuto under coach Tim.”

“Hindi lahat napupunta sa Ginebra,” added the Filipino-Arabian wingman, who turns 26 next month. “Yung mindset ko dito is to maximize every opportunity given to me.”

[See Cone sets twice-a-day practices to help Ginebra shake off championship hangover]

Taha knows he has to earn his spot at an already solid backcourt rotation that has combo guards Scottie Thompson, LA Tenorio, and Sol Mercado, as well as natural off guard Mark Caguioa.

“Wala naman akong in-eexpect (na mahabang playing time),” the 6-foot guard said. “Ang daming mga veterans dito. Ako naman, start from zero. Kailangan i-earn ko yung minutes ko. Hindi naman ibibigay sa akin yun eh, kahit saan naman eh. Trabaho lang araw-araw.”

“Kung ano ang ma-contribute ko sa team, kung ano ang ipagawa sa akin, dun lang ako – defense, hustle, dirty plays, kahit ano, basta makatulong ako sa team,” he added.

But even before his arrival, Cone has already been impressed by his impressive play.

“Every time we played against him, he killed us whether it’s in GlobalPort or Mahindra,” Cone said. “He always gave us fits.”

Taha is also happy to be reunited with college coach Richard del Rosario, Cone’s top deputy who recruited him for Benilde.

“I’m happy na finally nagkasama rin kami ulit,” Del Rosario said. “I’m happy yung progress niya sa Mahindra, napansin yung talent and skills niya. I’m sure he’ll be a big help sa Ginebra.”

“Yung athleticism niya and yung attitude niya maganda,” he added. “He’s very strong, two-way player siya, yun ang isa mga nagustuhan ko.” 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos