Cone has faith on these rookies

March 20, 2020

BARANGAY Ginebra coach Tim Cone gave major minutes to players like Scottie Thompson, Mike Cortez and Johnny Abarrientos during their freshman years.

Thompson and Cortez eventually became PBA stars, while Abarrientos became one of the league's greatest players.

"These guys have the same opportunity," said Cone.

The Kings' new players -- Arvin Tolentino, Jerrick Balanza, and Kent Salado -- all have the potential to make an impact for the squad when they eventually step onto the court.

Ginebra took former Far Eastern University standout Tolentino as the 10th overall pick, and Letran's Balanza at No. 13. Arellano Universitu's Salado, meanwhile, was selected as the 22nd overallby the Kings.

"We got a couple of young rookies that we really like, and we believe will make an impact this conference," Cone had said during the league's Media Day.

At the time, both Tolentino and Balanza had just practiced for less than a week with Ginebra, but Cone already liked what he saw from both players.

Balanza, a do-it-all swingman who led the Knights to the NCAA championship last October, stood out.

"He really stands out, and the coaching staff really likes him," said Cone. "He plays both sides of the floor."

A known scorer during his stint with the Tamaraws in the UAAP, Tolentino was described as "uber talented" by Cone.

"He has tremendous talent. He's just trying to figure out how best to use it, and how to use it in the concept of the team and how to use it consistently all the time," Cone said of Tolentino.

"But he plays a lot like Arwind Santos," he added, comparing the 6-foot-4 Tolentino to San Miguel's veteran forward. "He has those kinds of skills that Arwind has, the kind of instincts and skills. He just doesn't have the edge that Arwind has."

"If he ever develops that edge… he can turn out to be another Arwind. He really could. He's got that kind of level of talent."

During that time, Cone had yet to see Salado in practice at the time, as the former Chiefs point guard was still under contract with his MPBL team.

The multi-titled coach though is upbeat that Salado could contribute to the Kings as well.

"We like his feistiness. It's something that we're looking for," said Cone.

Ginebra fans can thus look forward to three impactful rookies when the league resumes its games -- provided that they earn their playing time in practice, said Cone.

"Everybody says I don't play rookies (but) I played rookies all throughout my whole career," he noted. "But they gotta prove it. They gotta prove that they deserve to play."

The PBA has suspended its Philippine Cup tournament as Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said he had barred teams from practicing for two weeks as another precautionary measure.

The only game to push through was the season-opener between defending champion San Miguel Beer and Magnolia, with the Beermen taking a 94-78 win.