Mar 27, 2021

Tolentino gets baptism of fire at Barangay Ginebra the hard way

IN his first official practice with Barangay Ginebra as a rookie, Arvin Tolentino admitted he had to dig deep to show he has that 'never-say-die' attitude, too.

Shortly after the 2019 PBA draft, Tolentino along with then fellow freshmen Jerrick Balanza and Kent Salado were already asked to join the Kings in practice despite the team in the midst of the battle during the PBA Governors' Cup playoffs.

It proved to be a long day in practice for the 6-foot-5 Tolentino, taken in the first round of the draft by the team, as he had no other than Best Import Justine Brownlee for his very first match up.

"First matchup nilagay sa akin ni coach Tim (Cone) si Justine Brownlee. Ewan ko kung masama ang loob sa akin ni coach Tim. Sobrang nagulat ako," said Tolentino, who had a good laugh about the incident in the recent PBA Kamustahan episode when asked about his 'Welcome to the PBA moment' as a rookie.

"I think that was the finals against Meralco, so intense pa sila (Kings) nun," added the former Far Eastern University stalwart. "And then kaming mga rookies coming in, magpa-practice kami sa kanila, first matchup ko nilagay sa akin si Brownlee."

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It was a challenge Tolentino faced in his first ever practice with the popular ballclub, going up against a deadly-shooting import who had given the Kings three championships at that time.

He was naturally blown away by the experience, seeing first hand how great a player Brownlee was.

"Sobrang galing ni Justine. So smooth at may counter siya sa lahat ng moves niya," said the rookie power-forward.

By the time the practice session was over, Tolentino disclosed suddenly doubting himself if he's good enough to be with the team.

"After ng practice, nanghina yung loob ko," he said. "Parang, kaya ko ba ito?"

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But Tolentino never gave up, imbibing the never-say-die culture Barangay Ginebra has been known for.

With proper guidance from Cone, his veteran teammates, and Brownlee himself, the 25-year-old power forward managed to pass his rookie season with flying colors.

He went on and win a memorable championship in his very first season, and was good enough to book a slot in the All-Rookie team after strongly contending for the Top Rookie award of the Philippine Cup bubble.

"Marami akong natutunan kay Justine at sa mga teammates ko," he acknowledged.

Definitely, never-say-die is one of them. (RG)