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‘Fearless’ rookie Tolentino now Cone’s ‘difference-maker’ for TNT

Multi-titled head coach Tim Cone has been largely hesitant over the years to deploy rookies for long stretches in games, but Ginebra newcomer Arvin Tolentino may just be the guy who can change that mindset.

In his PBA finals debut on Sunday, November 29, the former FEU Tamaraws stalwart shone as bright as his veteran teammates after tallying 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals in 32 minutes on the floor.

Most importantly, he drained the game-tying layup in the waning seconds of regulation that helped the Gin Kings draw first blood against TNT Tropang Giga in overtime, 100-94.

As such, Cone had to give credit where credit is due.

“The thing I like about Arvin is that he’s fearless. He’s not afraid of taking shots, or driving to the basket,” he said in the post-game presser.

“I get on him hard a lot, but he’s absolutely fearless. He’s fearless of me, he’s fearless of the game, and he has multiple skills. He can guard different people.”

Fearless indeed is the key word for Tolentino in Game 1 as he easily brushed off getting posterized by Ray Parks in the early stages of the contest. Instead, he made key stops and buckets along the way, capped off with his crucial game-tying layup.

“He’s still working on his defense, his techniques, things like that. Those are the things he will get a lot better at, but he’s the perfect guy right now playing TNT because of his versatility,” Cone continued.

“[He has the] ability to guard [Troy] Rosario, then switch on [Jayson] Castro, then spread the defense out with three-point shots. He’s quick up and down the floor. He’s athletic.”

Clearly, the trust is already there for Tolentino as he has already started in 13 out his first 18 games in the PBA.

With the loss of Greg Slaughter in the middle necessitating Japeth Aguilar to play center, Tolentino suitably fills the gaps that Cone needs filling, especially during a grueling seven-game series for the most prestigious title in the league.

“He came to us at the right time to play TNT. He’s a difference-maker for us,” Cone concluded. – Rappler.com