JETT Manuel finally made his PBA debut on Wednesday night and he was thrilled to see Barangay Ginebra come away with a 103-77 win over KIA in the Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The rookie guard out of University of the Philippines played for 12 minutes in his first pro game, going 3-of-6 from the field to finish with eight points to go with two rebounds, and an assist in the blowout win that evened the Kings record at 4-4.
But for Manuel, it’s not me but we.
“More than myself, I was just really happy that the team got this,” said Manuel. “We’re getting back into it. I hope this is the start of a better ending this conference.”
A first-round pick of the Kings at 12th overall, Manuel waited for the team’s eighth game before finally breaking into the rotation of coach Tim Cone, who admitted the rookie has to work his ‘way up the ladder’ to get his playing minutes.
That’s not a big deal for him, though.
“I haven’t been playing the past few games and as a player I just really want to play. But I’m a professional now. I just have to stay ready, that’s my job, and just follow whatever coach Tim asks from me,” said Manuel, who holds a civil engineering degree.
“If he plays me or not, that’s not my decision. My job is really to stay ready and whenever he brings me on, then I just make sure that I’m gonna produce the way he needs me to.”
Manuel first came in late in the third period and scored his first basket in the league. He even completed a rare four-point play at the 4:47 mark to stretch Ginebra’s lead to 94-66.
And the first thing that came to mind when he sank his first ever field goal as a pro?
“Get back on defense,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what coach Tim wants me to get a habit of, because he always tells me in practice that he’s forming habits for me.
“When I made that shot I was not really thinking of anything spectacular, it’s just that, ‘Where’s my man?’”
Now that he finally got a feel of it, Manuel vows to get better as the season progresses.
“All players want to play, want to contribute and I’m not here to say that I’m gonna lift the franchise to another level or anything like that,” he said. “I’m happy where I am and I’m just learning a lot as much as I can. I’m hoping that this will be the start that coach Tim will trust me that I can contribute in whatever way.”
Jett said he will for sure cherish this moment in his pro career.
“It really took a while for me to make it sink in when I was in the locker room. Everything happened so fast,” he disclosed. “I’m happy, thankful to God, and I guess I just have to trust the process.”