FROM just a defensive stopper to a legitimate offensive option, Sean Anthony’s transformation could not have come at a better time.
And now, he has become one of the key cogs for an Air21 side that’s in the midst of a Cinderella conference in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.
Once given the daunting task to guard the best player on the other team, the 28-year-old forward has now experienced what it feels like to be on the other side, being swarmed by top defenders thanks to his new-found aggressiveness and confidence to score.
He attributes that to coach Franz Pumaren as well as his teammates like Asi Taulava, Mac Cardona, Joseph Yeo, Jonas Villanueva, and Aldrech Ramos, who have all found a home in Air21 after getting discarded from their former clubs.
“I’m thankful to have a great group of guys around me and a great coach who push me to my limits,” the Filipino-Canadian utility man said after the Express shocked the San Miguel Beermen, 101-95, in double-overtime to notch a breakthrough semifinal stint in franchise history on Friday night.
The 6-foot-4 cager registered 18 points along with 12 boards, three steals, and two assists before fouling out after 41 minutes to help his team eliminate a fancied SMB squad that once again failed to live up to expectations.
In his four seasons in the league, the 2010 sixth pick overall never reached double figures in scoring average, his best output attained with Powerade in the 2011-12 season, where he normed 9.1 points per game.
But he has now scored in twin digits in all but one of his five games for his emerging squad, including a season-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting in Game One of the quarterfinals.
“Coach is just putting the ball in my hands,” he said. “He’s drawing up plays (for me). The ball goes in or the ball goes out. Luckily it’s been going in.”
Anthony’s development has been all the more impressive considering he just came back earlier this month from a broken hand that sidelined him for six weeks — which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“Breaking my hand was really a blessing in disguise,” he admitted. “It allowed me to work on my mental game because there was nothing I could do, so I did a lot of visualization, working on my self-confidence.”
“My confidence was at an all-time low last conference and I just built myself up,” added Anthony, who played limited minutes for a loaded Talk ‘N Text squad before getting abruptly traded to the Express before the start of the Philippine Cup playoffs.
Now, he hopes the fairytale run continues for the Express.
“We’re not satisfied. We celebrated a bit. It was a big accomplishment for us, but we know we’re good enough to go further and to push further.”