R.R. Garcia knocked down the game-winner for Phoenix over Rain or Shine and Fuel Masters coach Louie Alas couldn't be happier for the talented guard the squad has plucked out of the freezer just before the start of the season-ending PBA Governors Cup.
"Sinasabi ko nga, elite guard yan, magaling talaga. Kailangan lang bumalik ang kunpysansya niya," Alas said of the playmaker whom the Fuel Masters have given a new lease on life in Asia's first play-for-pay league.
Garcia spent months in limbo after being relegated to the free agency list by TNT KaTropa at the start of the year and instructed not to report for practices. When his contract expired last August, he tried out it with the E-Painters but didn't get signed up, allowing Alas to jump in.
"Actually matagal ko na siyang gustong player, eh. Alam ninyo ba history niyan? Sa akin nag-try out sa Letran bago napunta sa FEU. Eh kaya lang nung nag-try out siya sa Team B, nasa Team A ako so di ko nakuha. Iyung nagdala sa kanya sa Letran, dating player ko sa Las Pinas. Iyon, nung hindi siya nakuha, napunta sa FEU," recalled Alas.
Garcia, a former UAAP MVP, inked a one-conference contract with Phoenix, norming averages of 7.67 points, 2.50 assists and 0.33 steal in 24 minutes of play through six games. He probably had his best outing Wednesday night with 14 points and three dimes highlighted by the last-gasp basket in Phoenix's 86-84 thriller over ROS that kept the Fuel Masters alive in the playoffs race.
"Lagi ko sinasabi. magpasensya ka lang, gusto mo gumanda agad ang laro mo, hindi mo agad makukuha yan. This is not a sprint, sabi ko marathon ito. So game out, game in, dapat may nakukuha ka na datin mong ginagawa. Okay naman so far yung nakikita ko," said Alas.
Garcia actually bungled a chance to seal the game earlier on the free-throw line but didn't waste it next time around when Eugence Phelps set him up for the dagger.
"Hindi naman dapat siya ang naging hero doon pero naging recipient siya ng pasa ni Eugene. Yung mga ganong bata, hindi mo maituturo yan eh. Yung right place, right time, hindi naman siya dapat nadoon, pumunta siya doon, nalibre siya,' said Alas.
Garcia is grateful for his team's trust and patience.
"Sabi nang sabi sa akin si coach, kumpyansa lang, kaya ayun, sinusuklian ko yung sinasabi sa akin ni coach, Syempre, masaya ako at nakabalik ako sa PBA dahil sa kanya, dahil sa Phoenix management. Sana tuloy tuloy na," he said.
He dished out his biggest heroics for Phoenix against RoS, the team that passed him up.
"We know how good RR is. He proved it today that he really deserved to be in the PBA," ROS coach Caloy Garcia.
"But you know, lahat naman tayo may kanya-kanyang opinyon. We have our guards set already in our spot and RR came in Rey (Nambatac) is playing well, Kris (Rosales) is playing well so basically, pag kinuha namin siya, baka hindi naman namin mabigyan ng ganong minuto. So he's lucky he's able to go to a team that gives him more minutes," he added.
Alas is confident Phoenix will get to unravel the full potential of Garcia soon.
"Kailangan talaga niya multiple games para makuha niya game shape niya," he said. (OL)