JERIE Pingoy is one player who has received the most media mileage even before he could play his first game in the UAAP, thanks to his controversial transfer to the Ateneo camp after an impressive high school career with Far Eastern University.
But is he as good as advertised?
We asked Ateneo teammare Arvin Tolentino, who swore the Cebuano guard is the real deal - a true point guard who can ease the load for Blue Eagles star Kiefer Ravena and make his teammates better when he makes his long-awaited UAAP debut this season.
In fact, Tolentino said the two-year residency Pingoy had to go through after failing to secure his release from FEU helped made him an even better player, giving him time to transform from a scorer to a playmaker.
“Actually hindi na siya scorer ngayon eh. Kasi na-develop na niya 'yung passing skills niya which is what we need sa team,” Tolentino, who himself joined Ateneo last season from San Beda's high school team, told Spin.ph.
“Ang maganda sa pag-focus niya sa point guard spot, makaka-concentrate na si Kiefer sa off guard, tapos maganda ang complement ni Jerie sa mga big men ng team tulad ko,” he added.
Tolentino bared how Pingoy has been able to use his speed and high basketball IQ to spot and set up open teammates especially the big men underneath like Giboy Babilonia and Alfonso Gotladera.
“Malaking bagay sa aming big men 'yung Pingoy, kasi ang husay ng drop passes niya saka mga feed sa amin,” said Tolentino. “Nao-organize kasi ng maigi ni Jerie 'yung offense namin tapos nakakalito sa depensa dahil pwede rin siyang umiskor kung gusto niya.”
Pingoy bared he made a conscious effort to focus on the point guard role to be able to co-exist with Ravena.
“Pagpasok ko pa lang ng Ateneo, alam ko na kung saan ako magfo-focus. Kasi bago pa man nila ako nakuha sinabihan na nila ako na nandito si Kiefer kaya 'yun ang inaral ko during the time na hindi pa ko eligible,” said Pingoy.
“Saka alam ko na iba ang high school sa college. Kaya kung scorer ako sabi nila nung high school, gusto ko may ilabas na bago naman. Saka masaya ko sa bago kong role,” he said.
After a two-year wait, the Cebuano sensation said he can't wait to make his Blue Eagles debut. At the same time, there is apprehension owing to the extra attention on him, Pingoy said.
“Excited na ko, masaya sa lahat for the coming UAAP season. Kinakabahan ako kasi di ko alam kung ano magagawa ko dahil nakatingin sa akin lahat,” said Pingoy.
“Wala namang pressure sa akin kasi nagte-train naman ako sa team ko, may tiwala naman ako sa team ko at alam ko na kakayanin namin. Saka focus namin one game at a time,” he added.
Asked if he thinks fans should anticipate Ateneo to be on top this coming season, Pingoy was quick to play down expectations.
“Hindi naman, basta one game at a time lang kami. Lalo maraming bata sa team namin. Hindi pa namin kabisado ang laro sa UAAP, kaya nga lagi kaming ginagabayan nila Kiefer at ng mga veterans sa team namin,” he said.
The Blue Eagles guard said nothing has changed as far as his relationship with former teammates at FEU are concerned.
“Nalipat lang naman ako ng team. Nagpalit lang naman ako ng uniform pero di ako nagpalit ng pagkatao. Kaibigan ko pa rin sila. Alam ko kaibigan pa rin nila ako," he said.
"Excited akong makalaban sila, pero hanggang dun lang 'yun. Laro lang. Off the court, kaibigan at kapatid pa rin turing ko sa kanila,” he added while rattling off names of Mac Belo and Roger Pogoy as his good pals at FEU.