Simon Enciso's PBA debut a sign of a promising future
MANILA, Philippines – The night before the biggest game of his life, Simon Enciso loaded up his computer, started playing some highlights, and spent a chunk load of time watching clips of Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, and, of course, Steph Curry.
“I’m from San Francisco, so I’ve got to watch Steph Curry,” he says with a playful laugh in the narrow hall connecting the locker rooms of the Smart Araneta Coliseum on a Friday evening, fresh off a 48-minute game that he will never forget.
He must have seen Lillard take and make 3-pointers with degrees of uncanny difficulty. He must have seen Irving cross over and buffoon defenders like it was stealing candy from a baby. He must have seen Rose attack the rim with reckless abandon. He must have seen Curry do, well, Curry things.
But when he got to the Big Dome, hours before his first ever PBA game, Enciso found his nerves to be more bothersome than anticipated.
“I thought the night before, last night, I was just watching a bunch of highlights on my favorite players and I was like, ‘Man, I want to go out there and do all those moves,’ but once I got to the [arena], it really hit me,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Man, this is my first game,’ and I just got real nervous but excited at the same time.”
So once he reached the historic halls of the Araneta, he stuck to his usual pre-game routine: he got shots up, went to the locker room, pulled down his headphones, and loaded up music from 2Pac, Biggie, and, Drake.
Can you do those hilarious Drake dance moves?
“Yeah,” he says confidently before laughing.
It turns out he didn’t need a reason to be nervous.
Enciso, a 24-year-old Fil-Am, played 29 and a half minutes in his first game as a pro off the bench last Friday, October 23. He took 8 attempts - all from downtown - and made 5. He also pulled down 3 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.
He was huge in the fourth quarter, hitting two big triples - one that cut Blackwater’s lead to two with 8:59 remaining, and another one to give his team a 79-76 lead with 6 minutes left.
He was great running the offense, which is uncommon for a rookie, let alone one playing in his first ever PBA game. His decision-making was precise, he attempted shots only when it was the best look, and put teammates on the right spots.
“The way he played tonight, you don’t expect out of a rookie, but he’s been working hard. I saw him play in the D-League. I know he has the talent, so hopefully he will not settle in this first game,” said his head coach Boyet Fernandez to Rappler.
“I didn’t expect the way he played today. I’m happy with the way he played. I’m satisfied, and it seems that our decision of getting him… we did the right decision.”
Right now, that certainly looks like the case.
Truth be told, NLEX knew they had competition for Enciso during draft day. Tim Cone and Ginebra were interested in him after his workout, sources say. There were mentions that he could land with Star. Even Yeng Guiao and the Elasto Painters, who did draft him before trading him, took a close look before making the deal. That may have not been the case if they didn’t take Maverick Ahanmisi with the third overall pick - especially since TY Tang was set to retire.
Chances are Enciso wasn’t going to go past the second round. Heck, he might have even been taken towards the end of the first, so the Road Warriors weren’t keen on taking any risks.
The Elasto Painters had two picks in the second round of the 2015 PBA Draft, and NLEX struck a deal. They asked - or in Fernandez’s words, “begged,” Rain or Shine to take him and promised a second-rounder in exchange. The pick was made, and Enciso found himself on the way to NLEX - a team in dire need of more point guards.
“The way he practices, the way I saw his attitude, the way I saw him in the D-League, the way he plays defense, I think it will be a long career for him. I look at him as just like the two versions of Denok Miranda and Ryan Reyes, because they always give their 100%. That’s how Simon always plays,” Fernandez said about his rookie.
“I just feel blessed and I just thank God that I’m here today,” said the San Francisco native.
“Man, I was just trying to live in the moment, enjoy the time. You know, I made it to where I want to be, which is my dream to play in the PBA,” said the guy who played his college ball for Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif. and went unselected in the 2014 NBA Draft. “Luckily I had good teammates to get me in the right spots and I just had to knock down shots and that’s what I did tonight.”
More than the numbers or the court vision, it was his demeanour on the court that was most notable. He admitted that the physicality, pace, and style in the PBA is a world different from that of the D-League, but even with more intimidating defenders in his way, he looked undeterred.
When he was open, his form and stroke were picture-esque. When he called for a screen, he made sure to attract multiple defenders so that his teammates would face 4-on-3 or 3-on-2 advantages in a half-court set. The best part? He hasn’t even displayed his penetrating skills yet, the kind that have people attesting to his nickname “The Filipino Derrick Rose.
His job is to set up teammates, his agent told Rappler after the game, because it’s what the Road Warriors need of him. The result? Asi Taulava had 19 points, Mark Borboran had 12, and Sean Anthony had 14. Enciso may not have assisted them directly, but most of the time, it was he who commenced the offensive sets. When Kevin Alas and Garvo Lanete are back and healthy for this team, those assists numbers will pile up.
“It worked out for me today. Why change it, right? So just play solid, take and give what the defense gives me, and you know, make the right plays,” Encisco said, confident in his articulation like his game on the court.
“Of course the expectations are going to be there, but no one will ever have higher expectations that myself. The expectations are going to be there, but again, just keep doing the same thing that I’ve done today.”
“He always gives 100%, even in practice,” said his head coach. "And I think that attitude will bring him to a far PBA career.”
After his first ever PBA game, Encisco, laughing and recalling moments of the game with his agent, said that his mom had watched the first 3 quarters of the game from abroad via stream.
How about the fourth period, where he hit two big jumpers and helped his team get their first win of the season?
The stream cut off, unfortunately.
Luckily for both of them, it looks like Enciso’s debut performance is a sign of more impressive performances to come. – Rappler.com
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