Every week, ESPN5.com contributor and ESPN5 PBA anchor Charlie Cuna rates the five best rookies of the 2019 PBA season. Here is his list for the period covering January 13-20, 2019.
So young yet so talented. Are some of these guys really just rookies? There were several praiseworthy performances on the first five play-dates of the Philippine Cup from players just starting out their PBA careers. Let's revisit the five best.
1. Robert Bolick, Northport Batang Pier (week's averages: 20.0ppg, 63% FG shooting in 2 games)
To say the former San Beda Red Lion had a splashing debut against Blackwater would be a huge understatement. From the get-go, Bolick showed he was as "PBA-ready" as any rookie could get, starting the game on Wednesday and immediately running his team's offense, hitting from the outside, and driving to the hoop with impunity. He ran rings around his defenders, showed poise, and exhibited confidence. He ended up with 26 points, three rebounds, and three assists in just under 36 minutes of action, shooting 10 of 12 from the field, some highly-contested. He was named Player of the Game. Bolick followed up his sparkling first performance with a not-as-impressive outing against NLEX on Sunday, where he was already a marked man, producing 14 points on only four of 10 from the field, and committing seven turnovers. Despite his dip in production and efficiency in his second game, Coach Pido Jarencio still used him for almost 33 minutes, clearly stating that Bolick is and will be a huge part of his team's attack. Not a bad strategy based on what we've seen so far.
2. CJ Perez, Columbian Dyip (week's averages: 26ppg, 5 rpg in 1 game)
Unlike Bolick, who got to work immediately when the ball hit the floor in his first outing, Perez took a little longer to warm up. The former Lyceum Pirate seemed overwhelmed in the first half against four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer, clearly out of sync and scoring just two points. Things drastically changed in the second half as Perez, jitters left in the halftime locker room, with his team evenly battling the Beermen, stepped it up big-time, producing 24 more points, some, of the spectacular variety, including a one-handed slam, en route to a 26-point, five rebound showing in about 33 minutes.
Most importantly, he and his teammates, particularly Jackson Corpuz (who shared Player of the Game honors with Perez) and Reden Celda led the league's worst team from last season to a huge upset over the champs. Fans are looking forward to how he will fare in his second game. That will happen on Wednesday, January 24, against unbeaten Phoenix and Calvin Abueva.
3. Abu Tratter, Blackwater Elite (week's averages: 13.0ppg, 7.0rpg in 2 games)
It was a tough week for Blackwater as the team lost both its games, first against Northport on Wednesday, then Meralco on Saturday. A bright spot for the elite, though, was their new big man out of DLSU. Tratter showed his wisdom to play within his capabilities, never forcing anything and not trying to do too much. He scored 18 points (50% field goals) against Northport on simple lay-ups, pump fakes and hookshots, and strong, aggressive attacks. He also grabbed nine rebounds, stole twice, and blocked two shots in 35 minutes. Then, against Meralco, he scored eight points (60% field goals), grabbed five rebounds, and again stole twice, in 36 minutes. Also impressive is the way he battled inside and showed he was not intimidated by the veteran bigs who were testing him. He is strong, athletic, and willing to mix it up.
4. Javee Mocon, Rain or Shine (week's averages: 13ppg, 60% FG shooting in 1 game)
Mocon did not play nearly as much in his first pro game as the players listed above (only 18 and a half minutes), but he was effective while on the floor, making baskets, setting screens, rebounding, and reading plays. The commentators on board were impressed at how Mocon would react to game situations and position himself in the right places. In all, the former San Beda standout scored 13 points (six of ten from the field, including a three) and pulled down five rebounds in the Elastopainters' win over NLEX on Friday.
5. Trevis Jackson, Meralco (week's averages: 9.5ppg, 1.5apg in 2 games)
Jackson's first game, against Phoenix on Wednesday, was quite forgettable. In just five minutes of the first half, Jackson's highlight was a nice assist to Ranidel de Ocampo in the paint, but he turned the ball over once and was overwhelmed by the defense the Fuel Masters threw at him, particularly the length, quickness, and strength of Alex Mallari. He did not get back into the game in the second half. However, on Saturday against Blackwater, Jackson stepped up to the plate and showed his wares - he was more aggressive, read the defense properly, and was able to see daylight enough to hit five of eight three-pointers, including completing a four-point play, finishing with 19 points in just over 26 minutes. He also dished two assists. He was named Player of the Game. Coach Norman Black clearly has faith in his first-round pick, fifth overall, and will give him the opportunity to show what he can do.
Other rookies who saw action last week: Tey-Tey Teodoro (Ginebra), Paul Desiderio (Blackwater), Diego Dario (Blackwater), J-Jay Alejandro (Rain or Shine), JP Calvo (Columbian), Jeepy Faundo (Columbian), Ron Dennison (Phoenix), Bong Quinto (Meralco), Jorey Napoles (Phoenix), Kris Porter (NLEX)