Don’t be surprised if you see Ateneo’s highly-touted rookie Arvin Tolentino hitting outside shots instead of banging bodies inside.
More known as a force in the lane during his celebrated career with the San Beda Red Cubs in the NCAA juniors division, the 6-foot-5 Tolentino immediately proved that he can take–and make–triples in his triumphant debut with the Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball tournament.
"Kasama sa plays namin ‘yung pag-tira ko sa three-point (area),” he said, visibly pleased with his 12-point performance, spiked by a pair of triples, in their convincing 79-57 victory over the rebuilding Adamson Soaring Falcons last Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Iyon kasi ang payo sa akin ni Coach (Bo Perasol). If I’m open, take the shot. That’s why I’m having extra work (in improving my shooting) during our practice,” added the 18-year-old center, a national youth team mainstay who is taking up AB Interdisciplinary Studies.
Unlike his fellow freshmen Thirdy Ravena, younger brother of top guard Kiefer, Jay Javellosa, Clint Dolinguez and John Apacible who all saw limited action, Tolentino played nearly 18 minutes and made the most of the opportunity, notably in their telling 23-point explosion in the second canto where he fired eight big points, six of them coming from beyond the arc, that allowed Ateneo to pull away for good.
“Hindi ko ine-expect na ganu’n ang magiging performance ko,” Tolentino said. “Basta ang iniisip ko lang, makatulong sa team—whether in rebounding and playing defense. hindi naman importante ‘yung (personal) score. Basta dapat manalo ang team.”
“Nagpapasalamat ako kay God kasi maganda rin ang naipakita ko kahit paano. Nagpapasalamat rin ako sa mga coaches ko pati na rin sa mga teammates ko dahil binigyan nila ako ng kumpyansa,” he added.
Although he’s quite satisfied with Tolentino’s debut performance, Perasol believes his prized recruit is only scratching the surface of his full potential. “Arvin can definitely be better than that. He was able to score but I know, scoring-wise, how he can fare with that. I know the whole game through, he can be better.”
But Tolentino knows he doesn’t have any luxury to relax, as a tougher grind against archrival La Salle is coming up on July 20.
In stark contrast to the relatively small frontline of the rookie-laden Falcons, Tolentino and and the rest of the Blue Eagles will have their hands full in trying to stop the Green Archers’ imposing frontcourt led by towering Arnold Van Opstal, wide-bodied Jason Perkins, lanky Yutien Andrada, Norbert Torres and athletic rookie Abu Tratter.
“Siyempre may kaunting kaba. Ateneo-La Salle kasi ‘yan. First time ko mae-experience ‘yan kaya sana maganda ang maipakita ko,” Tolentino concluded.