PBA Philippine Cup

Who’s old? PBA elder statesmen show they can still keep up with young guns

Delfin Dioquino

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Who’s old? PBA elder statesmen show they can still keep up with young guns

CONTESTED. Beau Belga in action for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.

PBA Images

The likes of Beau Belga, Mark Barroca, Kelly Williams, and Japeth Aguilar – all at least 37 years old – continue to deliver for their respective teams in the PBA Philippine Cup

MANILA, Philippines – Young guns are slowly taking over the PBA, but the elder statesmen of the league have shown they can still keep up.

The likes of Beau Belga, Mark Barroca, Kelly Williams, and Japeth Aguilar – all at least 37 years old – continue to deliver as their respective teams sit at the upper half of the Philippine Cup standings as of Friday, April 26.

Belga, 37, has been a pleasant surprise for a Rain or Shine side that has turned things around after an inauspicious 0-4 start, averaging all-around numbers of 17.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1 steal through 10 games.

Putting up just 11.5 points in those four straight losses, Belga doubled his average to 22.8 points as the Elasto Painters won five consecutive games to propel themselves to playoff contention.

A vasty improved scorer this conference, Belga also thrives in the other departments, ranking fourth in the league in both rebounds and assists.

Like Belga, Barroca is enjoying his best scoring conference at 38 years old as he churns out 15.6 points through seven games for Magnolia.

The Hotshots shook off a shaky 1-2 start and won four games in a row with Barroca turning back the clock – a stretch that saw the two-time Finals MVP average 19.0 points.

Barroca affects the game in other ways as well, ranking second in assists (5.7) and third in steals (2.1) among all league players.

And he is doing all of that while nursing a wrist injury as Barroca – who has played in 571 straight games – closes in on the second spot in the all-time most consecutive games played list currently held by Alvin Patrimonio (596).

“The veterans are seeing the challenge from the young ones and they’re doing extra work on their conditioning,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes.

“We know everyone in the league now is paying extra attention to their nutrition, to their off-court work – really improving on their conditioning regimen, their fitness. So that’s what we’re seeing now.”

Reyes did not have to look far when he made that statement as he continues to rely on 42-year-old Williams.

The second-oldest player in the league after 46-year-old Rafi Reavis of Magnolia, Williams has been a steady presence for the Tropang Giga, who tote a 5-4 record.

Although the former league MVP can no longer put up lofty numbers like he used to during the peak of his powers, Williams remains a valuable piece for TNT as he averages 7.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists.

Williams’ 17-point, 13-rebound double-double in a come-from-behind 108-101 win over Phoenix on Wednesday, April 24, that saw the Tropang Giga storm back from a 23-point deficit is a prime example of his worth.

The same goes for 37-year-old Aguilar, who has found ways to shine in a stacked Barangay Ginebra squad featuring Christian Standhardinger, Scottie Thompson, Jamie Malonzo, and Maverick Ahanmisi.

Aguilar averages 13.7 points and 5.8 rebounds as the Gin Kings carry a 6-3 card.

“The influx of young blood has been very good for the league. It’s been very difficult for us. Before, even if we had a bad game, we know certain games are sure wins. That’s no longer the case,” said Reyes.

“Every game now, doesn’t matter who we play, we know it’s going to be a challenge. It demands our best,” Reyes added. “And that challenge is forcing the vets to really up not their game, but their conditioning.”

“They’re all upping their conditioning. And that’s brought about by the challenge seeing all the young blood coming in.”

Indeed, age is just a number. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.