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Barangay Ginebra San Miguel rookie Scottie Thompson came to Game 5 last Tuesday armed and loaded.
And from coach Tim Cone, to his backcourt partners LA Tenorio and Sol Mercado, and veteran players Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand, all sang praises for the neophyte guard from the University of Perpetual Help.
And why not?
In the semifinal series win over dethroned PBA Governors’ Cup champion San Miguel Beer, Thompson proved to be a catalyst as he delivered a near-virtuoso performance.
Thompson set the tone in the deciding Game 5 as his guns went blazing for 14 points in the opening quarter on a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point territory on his way to a career-high 24 points with 15 rebounds as Ginebra defeated SMB, 117-92, to clinch its first finals berth in three years.
“The message was sent by Scottie,” said Cone. “He was contagious.”
Aside from that Game 5 performance, the 6-foot-1 Thompson also recorded a triple-double 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 3 to became the first local player this season to record the feat. He was also the first rookie to do so in 15 years after Fil-foreign Davonn Harp (2000) and the first homegrown in 23 years since Johnny Abarrientos (1993).
For the series, Thompson – the fifth overall selection of Ginebra in last year’s PBA Rookie Draft – averaged 10.80 points, 8.60 rebounds and 5.40 assists as he logged in nearly 32 minutes of action.
His scoring was a big jump from his elimination round averages of just 5.1 points, an improvement that impressed Caguioa.
“We know he can do that, he’s been like that since college,” said the Kings superstar.
While he is already amazed with the all-around game of Thompson, Tenorio said he still needed to urge the Davao del Sur native to be more aggressive on the offensive end in Game 5.
“Yun lang ang kailangan na may mag-push sa kanya kasi mahiyaing bata eh,” Tenorio said. “Yun ang personality niya.
Sabi ko ‘wala ako pakialam kung mag-miss ka ng forty, basta itira mo.’”
And Thompson did, with his shots finding their mark.
“Fulfillment na sa akin yun pag nakikita kong sinasabihan ko siya at nakikinig. Masaya ako dahil nanidito siya sa Ginebra; malaking tulong talaga. Sobrang laking bagay talaga si Scottie sa success ng team namin.”
As for Thompson, his motivation is plain and simple.
“First time ko sa finals, kasi nung college ako hindi ako nakapag-finals. I took it as a motivation,” said the 23-year-old Thompson, a former NCAA MVP who only made it as far as the Final Four during his college days.
Those days are now over.