AFTER a season of futility, Blackwater embraced the challenge, stepped up to the plate and turn things around behind an exhilarating start in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Bossing unleashed a stunning resurgence and raced to a fast 4-1 slate for solo third place behind powerhouse teams San Miguel Beer (6-1) and Barangay Ginebra (5-1).
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And while the team had a bevy of heroes to thank for the impressive showing, a freshman by the name of Renato “Ato” Ular rose to the occasion and made the biggest difference for the franchise so far.
The hardworking Ular, a second-round draftee from NCAA champion Letran, made heads turn in his first five games, highlighted by a huge double-double in a dramatic 90-89 win over contender Meralco.
The notable performance earned the 6-foot-4 forward from Tarlac the Cignal Play-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week citation for the period June 29 to July 2.
Ato Ular delivers big for Blackwater.
Ranged against the veteran frontline of Raymond Almazan and Cliff Hodge, Ular did not shy away from the challenge and finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 7-of-13 from the field.
Ular also delivered in the crunch for the Bossing, hitting the game-tying basket in the last 48 seconds, before setting a solid screen for teammate Baser Amer, who drained the game-winner at the buzzer to beat his former team.
The Blackwater player thus became the first rookie to win Player of the Week citation this season, and the first freshman to do so since Northport’s Jamie Malonzo achieved the feat in the last Governors’ Cup.
The 13th pick in the last draft, Ular is also the first Bossing to be hailed as POTW since Ray Parks earned the honor in the first week of the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup as he makes an early case for the Rookie of the Year plum.
“Lagi kong pinagha-handaan kapag may game. Sobrang aga ko lagi sa court, nagsho-shooting at nag gi-gym. Pinagha-handaan ko lagi. Kung pinagha-handaan man ako, mas pinagha-handaan ko sila,” said Ular.
The second leading scorer for Blackwater (14.4 points) behind seasoned guard JVee Casio (15.4), Ular bested TNT's Mikey Williams, SMB's CJ Perez and other candidates for the weekly honor being handed out by the men and women regularly covering the PBA beat.