Mallari up for challenge of guarding Alaska’s Casio, Abueva

MANILA, Philippines – Despite being relatively unknown compared to his superstar teammates, Alex Mallari continues to quietly excel for the Star Hotshots in the 2015 PBA Governors’ Cup.

The 28-year old guard is steadily growing into one of head coach Tim Cone’s most reliable defensive players and a trusted starter. It’s a role Mallari has readily accepted.

Cone declared earlier in the conference that Mallari is “the most underrated defensive player in the league right now.” 

True to that statement, Mallari limited Globalport’s primary offensive weapon Terrence Romeo to just 15 points and 5-of-21 field goal shooting in a 101-94 quarterfinals win that allowed the Hotshots to advance to the semifinals.

Mallari looks forward to testing his skills and limits once more against playoffs mode versions of JVee Casio and Calvin Abueva when the Star faces Alaska in the best-of-5 semis.

“For me it’s a challenge,” he said of the possibility of guarding Alaska’s best including rookie playmaker Chris Banchero. “If you get intimidated you might as well go home.”

Though he put up his first double-double this conference of 17 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Hotshots, Mallari still believes his defense is his game’s crown jewel.

“On the defensive end I can guard one through 4. My main priority is to guard, play defense, get in the lane, make some plays,” said Mallari, who averaged 10.8 points before last night’s game.

Cone also went as far as to compare Mallari to national team and Rain or Shine defensive specialist Gabe Norwood.

“He’s very Gabe Norwood-like but he’s a little bit quicker,” Cone said during the eliminations. “He may not be as athletic but he’s guarded multiple positions and point guards have a hard time with his length. That’s why he’s starting almost all games, and he’s playing more down the stretch.”

As Mallari, playing in his third year, keeps improving, expect him to get more burn playing the big moments for Cone and the Hotshots in the semifinals.

“Both teams are good,” Mallari assessed his team’s match-up with Alaska. “Whoever comes in with more energy, more determination, more heart. That’s all it takes.” – Rappler.com