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In Your Face!

Disappearing Acts

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With the UAAP and NCAA seasons in full swing and approaching playoff time, let's take a look at the players who seem to have dropped off the planet. Now please remember that we are not going to do a metric analysis here, so don't expect numbers to be tossed about hither and yon. We will be taking a look at some numbers, but this is not strictly metric-based.

This is just my impression of certain players this season who seem to have become conspicuous by their so-so play after relatively productive outings the previous season and even over the summer preseason, and they come in no particular order.

JR Sumido, Forward, University of the East - Sumido was once an RP Youth national team candidate who made it all the way to the last few rounds of selection. He brings height, length and a pretty good long-range shooting game. Unfortunately he also seems to be the most awkward moving basketball player in all of college ball in this country. Nothing about him looks fluid, and he often runs, dribbles and just plain moves in such a disjointed fashion. If a bio-mechanics or even physical therapy expert took a look at him they would say there is something unusual and inefficient about his movements. This would not be a fatal flaw if only he were productive. Unfortunately for him and the Red Warriors he has been far from productive this season. All of his numbers took nosedives across the board this season.

Even that one skill upon which he has hung his hat in the past has abandoned him: his long-range shooting. That seems to be the last straw, because if there is one thing shooters will always be good at it is shooting. Shooters in their 50's to 70's can still nail 10 straight set shots from about 15 feet and beyond. It is simply a skill that never goes away. Apparently Sumido has become that rare case of a shooter whose shot has deserted him.

Some would point to the arrival of do-all Ralf Olivares as signaling Sumido's playing demise. That does not necessarily wash. Sumido and Olivares did well alternating or even playing alongside each other over the summer. Sumido even had some great games against top UAAP rivals UST and Lasalle in the 2013 Fil Oil which UE won. One can only wonder if there isn't anything else that may not be basketball-related that has reduced Sumido to a shell of his former self.

Jon Pinto, Guard, Arellano University - Pinto came into the summer preseason tournaments firing but steadily saw his numbers dip as defenses became more keyed onto him. Perhaps the most telling was his inability to make plays and hit shots. Up to the middle of the Fil Oil he was still able to find teammates on their sets, run the early offense and stick the mid-range and pull-up shots. When the NCAA tournament started he was suddenly taking hurried shots deep into an expiring shotclock from way downtown. It is as if the rest of the NCAA only needed half the summer to fully figure him out and now he is unable to deliver for his team.

Of course having the likes of James Forrester asserting himself more for the Chiefs, plus the improvements of center Prince Caperal, the steadily improving productivity of Keith Agovida and the return of Adam Serjue might have eaten into a lot of his own opportunities. But his style of play - as a primary handler and setter, drive-and-pull-up specialist, recipient on the drive-kick out plays - should have lent itself more to having more productive teammates. Sadly he has not quite responded as well to these developments as expected.

Scotty Thompson, Swingman, Perpetual Help - Talk about new teammates taking your production away and Thompson might be the first one to come to mind. Juneric Baloria has been the revelation of the NCAA, leading the league in scoring and emerging as one of its best players. All this has come at a price however, and it looks like Thompson is the one paying for it.

Thompson, much like Baloria, is a perimeter player, although Baloria is more ball-dominant and shoots at a more impressive range at a more impressive clip. As early as the summer preseason tournaments it seemed Thompson's game would be the one that would become the biggest casualty of Baloria's emergence as the new go-to star for Perpetual Help. All of Thompson's numbers have been practically reduced by half across the board.

Thompson can still make hay in the new sun though if he focuses more on defense and helping out with the rebounding chores. As a relatively short team, the Altas need all of the active bodies they can get hustling on defense especially on helping and switching, as well as crashing the boards from the outside to offset the size advantage of the other teams.

Chris Javier, Center, University of the East - Was it not just last season that Javier was the giant-slaying game hero that beat reigning champion Ateneo De Manila with that buzzer-beating three-pointer from the left corner that left Greg Slaughter and the rest of the Blue Eagles completely stunned?

Over the summer he even looked like he had become the best-running local big man around, finishing in transition via the leak-out with no defenders in front of him. He was also using his broad shoulders and wide torso to carve space for himself to score under the basket or draw the foul. With the powerful import Charles Mamie around, Javier looked like he had finally found a comfortable spot being the power forward beside the Sierra Leone center.

Then the season started and Javier has seen all of his numbers nearly cut in half from the season previous. His role on the team has not changed, either as the nominal starter or playing alongside Mamie up front. But this time he has not gotten out in transition, has not pulled a move down low, has not in fact been very productive over the nine game UE has played thus far. He's even let smaller players routinely beat him to the rebound. It's not like he hasn't gotten any opportunities. The UE drive-draw has found him often enough for the drop pass. He could convert those in the summer so there is no reason he is not converting those now.

Jan Jamon, Forward, Emilio Aguinaldo - Last year Jamon was exciting to watch as he showed that even guys who did not come out of high school as highly recruited blue chips could still match the highly touted recruits. He did a little of everything at above-average levels. Combine that with his height, length and athleticism and he was a heck of a package as a college swingman.

This year he has kept his numbers steady without any noticeable appreciation or decline. He was however a more effective and confident player last year. This year his shot seems to have abandoned him, and when he tries to drive he usually bounces the ball off his foot or runs smack into a halfcourt trap. It seems the rest of the league, as it did with Pinto, has figured out Jamon. Perhaps he is missing guard Franz Chiong, who helped spread opposing defenses, or maybe import Noube Happi has simply been dominating the ball more, but those don't seem to be compelling cases.

Jamon still has all of the second round to try and get his groove back. Perhaps hitting a few mid-range jumpers and getting a stop one-on-one against the better players ought to restore his confidence.

Roider Cabrera, Forward, Adamson University - Cabrera was expected to have his breakout year this year since this is also his final year of UAAP eligibility. That has not really happened though and maybe it has as much to do with Jericho Cruz dominating the ball more and the arrival of import Ingrid Sewa. Although his numbers have been more or less steady, Cabrera seems to be lost and unfocused most of the time on the court.

Still, neither of these guys is taking anything away from him. If anything his ability to hit the long ball should have been the perfect compliment to the driving game of Cruz and the inside strength of Sewa. Whenever these two run into any traps or double teams the easiest thing to do is to get the ball over to Cabrera to take the long jumper. Instead he has been productive mostly in the fourth period of games, when he suddenly finds the range and starts hitting his knuckleball three-pointers.

In his final year as a college player it behooves him to try and make the most of his minutes. He's getting a lot of it on an Adamson roster that has few choices compared to previous seasons. It is up to him to show what he can do with the opportunities.

Do you agree or disagree with these choices? Tell us about it in the comments.
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Comments

  1. Joescoundrel's Avatar
    JR Sumido and Chris Javier had some signs of life in their game versus NU over the weekend. The duo combined for 14 points, almost 10 more than they've averaged combined over the course of the season. Too bad UE still lost that game, but it was a tighter contest than it had any right to be. Another guy who stepped up, big time at that, was veteran forward John Noble, who led the Warriors with 16 points, about 13 more than his average for the tournament.

 
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