BASKETBALL icon Mon Fernandez admits being impressed with Ian Sangalang, who came of age in just his first tournament as a pro, in the process helping San Mig win the PBA Philippine cup crown.
Although he admits rarely watching league games lately because of busy schedule with his Suka ni El Presidente business, Fernandez bared how he took a second look at the fleet-footed Pampangueno big man after catching a piece of the action in the recently concluded finals.
“Mahusay siya ha. May galaw, saka alam niya kung saan pupuwesto. Matapang at isa pang nagustuhan ko, unorthodox yung mga tira niya pero effective,” said Fernandez, a four-time PBA MVP and regarded as one of the finest Filipino cagers of all time.
Fernandez, however, stopped short of drawing comparisons between him and the San Mig rookie, saying he hasn't seen enough to make a fair judgment.
“Hindi kasi ako madalas nakakapanood ng games kasi sobrang busy … pero sa nakita ko kay Sangalang noong Game Four, I think okay siya ha. He will go places,” said the now 60-year-old pride of Maasin, Leyte.
For his part, former Tanduay star JB Yango believed the skills set of Sangalang is the same as that of his former teammate, but he needs to improve on his dribbling and shooting to come close to Fernandez who was a complete package during his heyday.
“Si Mon kasi magaling mag-dribble 'yun, ang hirap bantayan nun. Marami ngang ginugulat na kalaban yun dati kasi andaming ginagawa sa bola, kaya niyang magbaba,” said Yango.
“Saka kailangan ni Ian na hasain pa yung shooting niya, kung gusto niya maging kaliga sila Mon. Pero bata pa 'yung Sangalang. Matututo pa 'yun,” said the former PBA star.
Fernandez’s former rival Bogs Adornado, however, said any comparison between No. 2 pick overall in this year's rookie draft and Fernandez is premature at this point.
“Malayo pa siya kay Mon. Iba ang laro nung Fernandez, pero depende sa attitude ni Ian. He has to keep working, he has to polish his skills,” said Adornado. “He should elevate his skills every game.”
“Hindi siya dapat mapapagod na mag-improve. Every game he should improve. Rookie pa lang siya, mahaba pa ang career. May skills siya, pero sa totoo lang kulang pa to be on top of that position,” added the first-ever PBA MVP.
“As a rookie, may potential, but it will require more hardwork to reach the top and be in the caliber of Fernandez, Abet Guidaben and the rest. At iyan ang aabangan ko sa kanya.”
Playing under the shadows of fellow Mixers star Marc Pingris, Sangalang suddenly found his groove to become one of the unsung heroes in San Mig's conquest of a sixth all-Filipino championship.
Sangalang, a discovery of Pampanga vice-governor Dennis Pineda, is expected to become a permanent fixture in Tim Cone's frontline after his stellar performances in Games Four and Six of the finals against Rain or Shine.