FOUR San Beda players are getting the opportunity to test the PBA waters before actually jumping to the professional ranks.
Peter Alfaro, Clifford Jopia, Damie Cuntapay, and JV Gallego, seniors from last season’s NCAA wars, are currently part of TNT in the ongoing PBA on Tour were teams are allowed to field undrafted players including those from the collegiate ranks.
The players are soaking it all in ahead of the draft in September.
“Sobrang malaking opportunity ito for me,” said Alfaro. “Last year ko na ngayon sa San Beda. Kailangan magpakita dito. At the same time, malaking chance ito para ma-feel ko na ‘yung game sa PBA kasi magkaiba ‘yun sa college.”
The absence of TNT’s top stars opened up slots for Alfaro and Co.. At the same time, the Red Lions players are part of the Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda squad that made the playoffs of the PBA D-League.
The San Beda players' schedule is loaded as they attend 6 p.m. practice for Marinerong Pilipino before heading to TNT training.
No one is complaining, though.
“Every hoopers dream na makasama dito kahit na offseason nila ito. Gina-grab ko talaga ‘tong opportunity para ma-learn ‘yung Xs and Os sa PBA. Sobrang saya ko talaga. No words can describe,” said Alfaro.
TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa said they included the San Beda players in the roster in order to see them up close ahead of the PBA draft.
“Naghahanap talaga kami ng players na gusto namin makita. Wala namang free agents diyan or we don’t know anyone else. Lahat ng gusto namin makita, nasa MPBL, ‘yung tipong ganun. Nasa D-League sila ngayon. We want to see them,” said Lastimosa.
San Beda coach Yuri Escueta is happy for the rare opportunity that his players are getting in the PBA on Tour.
“Malaking bagay para sa program ng San Beda and, at the same time, sa mga players para sa experience nila coming to the PBA Draft,” said Escueta, who is also an assistant coach at TNT. “Being part of the MVP company, may opportunity sila na ganito.”
Their PBA on Tour debut saw Alfaro score five points including a three-pointer and two rebounds in 24 minutes last June 2 against NorthPort. Jopia had five points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes while Cuntapay had three points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.
Gallego played his first game in the exhibition series on Wednesday where he had two points and two rebounds against Terrafirma in 11 minutes of play.
“Coming into the game, sobrang excited knowing na makakalaro kami dito dahil kulang ‘yung TNT. Makakuha kami ng minutes from coach Sandy [Arespacochaga]. Coming into the game, may konting pressure pero napapangunahan ng saya at excitement,” said Alfaro.
Escueta said his San Beda players needed little adjustment to the TNT game.
“More or less, ‘yung tinatakbo namin sa San Beda at sa TNT, pareho. Hindi na sila masyadong nag-adjust. But siyempre, PBA ‘to. Ito ang pangarap nila. May jitters pero eventually, um-okay din sila,” said Escueta.