JETT Manuel has always spent Christmas on vacation with his family out of town, usually abroad.
This year, the Barangay Ginebra rookie will still be with his family and outside their home, but he’ll have work on Monday when he makes his pro debut for the Gin Kings against the Magnolia Hotshots at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue for the PBA’s annual Christmas treat.
“Iba-iba, we go to Japan, Europe, but this year, lahat kami nasa Bulacan. Out of town pa rin,” Manuel said with a chuckle in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Saturday. “Pero maglalaro ako.”
But he’s not complaining.
This year’s 12th overall pick and the Gin Kings’ only signed rookie is embracing the life of a pro, especially playing for the league’s crowd darlings.
“It’s the first time I’ll be spending Christmas playing basketball, but I don’t mind, of course,” Manuel said. “For Ginebra, for the PBA, it’s part of it and I don’t mind.”
“I’m excited, a little bit nervous,” he added. “But I think I’m more focused lang on my preparation, just trying to internalize kung ano ang kailangan ni coach Tim from me. That’s really what I’m focusing on. I’m not really thinking on how many people are going to be there.”
Known for his offense in the amateurs, the former University of the Philippines gunner is working on his defense to crack coach Tim Cone’s main rotation.
“I think right now, really on my defense, so he wants me to adjust fully oh his philosophy,” the 6-foot-2 cager said. “Yung offense kasi, it’s there, my game is there. I know that I contribute; I spread the floor more with my outside shooting.
“But more than that is really the defense he needs from me – being in the right place, in the right position, helping at the right time,” he added.
Before he takes Cone’s philosophy to heart and apply it on the court, Manuel is well aware he will have to earn his playing time.
“Okay lang ako,” the 25-year-old cager said. “I think with coach Tim talaga, his history with rookies, medyo gradual eh. He was never one na parang kung may rookie first-round pick, kahit si Scottie or Kevin, he really takes his time. And I trust coach Tim with that. I don’t expect or demand that he play me right away.”
“I just to contribute the best way I can,” he added. “And then I’m going to let it come na lang where I feel like I really deserve to be here, I really deserve to play more, contribute more.”
Whether on the court or on the bench, Manuel is relishing his debut in front of a an expected huge crowd.
“I’m just letting in all sink in,” Manuel said. “It’s a different experience for me.”