Sep 13, 2021

'Super rookies' making difference for RoS

RAIN or Shine was the most active team in the first two rounds of the last PBA draft.

Yet in so short a time, the Elasto Painters are now reaping the fruits on their move to gamble on these young rookies.

Coach Chris Gavina praised his so-called 'super rookies' for playing beyond expectations and giving the franchise a huge lift in its bid for a quarterfinals berth in the season opening meet.

The trio of Leonard Santillan, Andre Caracut, and Anton Asistio had come up big in the team's back-to-back victories over powerhouse units Magnolia and San Miguel, allowing the Elasto Painters to hike their record to 6-4 overall, with just a game left before they end their elimination round campaign.

The value of the three freshmen couldn't have been more amplified than in Rain or Shine's 95-93 upset of San Miguel when they engineered the comeback of the Elasto Painters from as much as a 13-point deficit.

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Santillan topscored for 21 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from three-point range, while Asistio added 11 points and seven assists, and Caracut with seven points.

No wonder, Gavina had glowing words for them during the post-game presser, just within hearing distance of Santillan, who was adjudged Best Player of the Game.

"I'm fearless when I play these rookies. All these guys have shown great characters and extreme grit under extreme pressure these past two games," he said. "As you can see, they've been ready to perform when their numbers are called."

Gavina decided to load his team with young blood during the rookie draft, netting Santillan at no. 5 in the first round, and then adding Franky Johnson (no. 17), Asistio (no. 22), and Caracut (no. 23) in the second round.

Santillan, Asistio, and Caracut cracked the Elasto Painters' regular 5-on-5 lineup from the season start, while Johnson was added to the active roster later on from the 3x3 unit.

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A member of past 3x3 men's national team, Santillan has been inserted as part of Rain or Shine's starting unit for the past two games in which he averaged 11.7 points per game, including a high 50 percent shooting from three-point range.

Asistio and Caracut on the other hand, had been alternating in starting at the backcourt, where they share playmaking chores with veterans Gabe Norwood and Rey Nambatac.

"So it's a blessing for us to have all these super rookies on our team," added Gavina.

Everything about Rain or Shine's rookies are not lost on Nambatac, who converted the game-winning basket against the Beermen.

"Credit to the rookies for giving their hearts out. Hanggang dulo nakikipag-compete sila against a veteran team," said the guard out of Letran. (RG)