AS he sat down after some extra shooting at the end of Ginebra practice on Tuesday, Prince Caperal didn’t take long to attract a handful of fans who approached him to have their pictures taken with the newest member of the league’s crowd darlings.
“Hindi sanay,” the journeyman stretch big man said with a smile in between photographs.
Caperal will have to get used to the adulation that comes with the territory after signing with the Gin Kings last week following his relegation to the unrestricted free agent list by Kia.
“Being in the most popular team sa Pilipinas, inaasahan mo na rin na dun pa lang sa bahay namin…ang dami daw naghahanap sa 'kin dun,” the San Mateo, Rizal native said with a chuckle. “Dumami nga 'yung kaibigan ko eh.”
The fourth-year pro will also have to get used to winning after toiling in a talent-forsaken Picanto side that has been mired in mediocrity due to questionable deals the past two seasons.
“Sobrang pabor sa akin,” Caperal said. “From a team na medyo hindi ...to going here sa championship-level team, sobrang saya ko. Sobrang malaking experience sa 'kin 'to, para sa career ko.”
“Tapos learning from coach Tim (Cone), himself, talagang sobrang dami kong matututunan sa kanya. Madadala ko 'to sa long-term career ko,” he added.
Caperal gets to add to his former team’s misery on Wednesday night when the Gin Kings face the Picanto at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Cone believes they got a guy that fits like a glove in the Triangle offense.
"I like him a lot... ever since, but I liked him even more seeing him in practice,” the American coach said of the 6-foot-6 big man. "He fits our style. He fits my type of big men. He can play the four or the five. And he's big enough and strong enough to guard a guy like Greg Slaughter or a June Mar (Fajardo). But he's got perimeter big man skills.
“So between him and Raymond (Aguilar), I think we've got a couple of really good big men backups that we trust to come out and play,” he added. “Prince just needs more time in the system to understand what we're doing. But we foresee him getting a lot of minutes for us.”
Caperal, though, is well aware he will have to earn his minutes first.
“Talagang kailangan ko mag-work hard,” the former Arellano stalwart said. “Mas ginanahan ako nung napunta ako dito - syempre coach Tim yan, so kailangan ko ipakita na hardworking ka. Hindi naman pwedeng gusto ka lang niyan tapos gagamitin ka. Kailangan ipakita mo din na deserving ka dun sa spot na ibibigay niya sa'yo.”
It helps that he played for two years at Arellano for coach Koy Banal, a former Cone disciple who also runs the same system.
"Sobrang nakatulong kasi yung tinatakbo namin sa Arellano, two years namin ni-run yung triangle,” Caperal said. “Nagka-idea na rin ako kung paano yung sistema. Ang ano lang dito, may mga konting adjustment, pero yung basic na triangle, may idea na ako so hindi naman ako masyado nahirapan sa pag-fit in.”
What’s more important is him fitting in with his new teammates.
“Sobrang accommodating naman nila,” Caperal said. “In-accept nila ako as addition na talagang para makatulong. Hindi yung parang competition sa team. Tinutulungan nila ako mag-fit in sa sytem para mas mabilis kong ma-absorb yung sistema ni coach.”