Next in line: Five players who stepped up in the Governor’s Cup

There has been a lot going on in the PBA Governor’s Cup.

There have been some good games that have pushed us to the edges of our seats. We’ve seen some incredible performances from imports and locals alike. We’ve also seen a bunch of big trades that had us all shookt. My Twitter timeline blew up when TNT decided to part ways with RDO. And speaking of Twitter, the PBA has also been shaking things up there. They’ve been experimenting on a certain style of tweeting that I do not dare challenge.

My favorite part of the conference, however, has been the emergence of several players. I think we’re at a point wherein the entire league is transitioning from one generation to another. And as this happens, we begin to welcome new stars in the L.

Here are five players who have surprised us this conference with their stellar play:

2017 PBA Commissioners Cup Alaska-NLEX pic 9 by Roy Afable

Kevin Alas – 14.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 46.3% field goals

Kevin has long been on the rise. But it wasn’t until this conference that he was really able to strut his stuff and turn heads. Putting coach Yeng Guiao and import Aaron Fuller aside, Alas is the next biggest reason why NLEX has been so successful this conference. He is the Road Warriors’ leading local scorer.

There are still some aspects of his game that needs work on though. Kevin has only made one three-pointer on only four attempts this entire tournament. But he has that shot. When he was in college, I watched him knock down 10 threes in game to eliminate Calvin Abueva’s San Sebastian. Perhaps it just needs some polishing.

Imagine how deadly he’ll be if can blossom into an inside-outside threat. Sheesh.

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Poy Erram – 10.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg (3.7 offensive), 2.4 bpg

Poy was starting to gain ground in the PBA when suffered a knee injury in August last year. For the second time in his career, he suffered an ACL injury. That had him sidelined for nine months. He could have tried going for a shorter recovery timeline, but he wanted to make sure that he’d be fully healed when he got back.

That patience has paid off for Poy.

He was able to return in the latter part of their Commissioner’s Cup campaign. But there wasn’t much he could do to salvage their conference. Here in the Governors’ Cup, Erram has made sure he gets to help his team.

With Henry Walker and other locals taking care of the offense, Poy has committed himself to playing the best defense he’s capable off. He is leading the league with 2.4 blocks per game. He is also one of the top rebounders – especially when cleaning up after his teammates’ misses.

2017 PBA Commissioners Cup Alaska-Blackwater pic 11 by Roy Afable

Mike DiGregorio – 15.4 pts, 43.6% FGs, 43.6% 3-FGs

Next on the list is Erram’s teammate. Remember when I said that Blackwater has been getting their offense from other locals? I was pertaining to this guy.

Before Mike landed in Blackwater, has was going in and out of Mahindra’s (now Kia) active roster. For the weak-hearted, that would have been enough reason to quit and follow a different path. But DiGregorio was persistent. He’s the good kind of stubborn.

Playing for his former team the Philippine Cup, he averaged less than 11 minutes over seven games. He was barely able to show what he can do. But every time he got a chance, he left everything he had out on the court. That didn’t go unnoticed. In February 2017, Blackwater picked him up from free agency and his playing time got a big boost. Suddenly, he was out there for close to 26 minutes a night. Slowly he got to show his sweet stroke.

Now, in the Governor’s Cup, Mike is one of the league’s best three-point shooters. In a team that has scorers in Mac Belo, Roi Sumang and recently-acquired Allein Maliksi, Mike DiGregorio has found his niche.

(READ: Mike DiGregorio’s rise to relevance in the PBA)

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Ian Sangalang – 13.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 65% FGs

Would you believe me if I told you that Paul Lee isn’t the leading local scorer of the Star Hotshots? Would you believe me if I told you it was Ian Sangalang? Probably not. But it’s actually true. Ian leads Paul by a single point.

Back in the 2013 PBA draft, there were three big names that were expectedly taken as the first three picks – Greg Slaughter, Raymond Almazan and Ian Sangalang. Fans engaged in debates on whether their teams made the right choice and on whom would have the brightest career in the PBA.

Fact is, Greg and Raymond made their marks ahead of Ian. But Sangalang is catching up pretty fast. He went down with an injury early in his career. That sort of derailed him. But now he looks very comfortable on the court. His Tim Duncan-esque basic basketball has allowed him to produce very respectable numbers this conference.

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Mike Tolomia (4 games with Meralco) – 10.0 ppg, 61% (14/23) field goals, 70% (7/10) three-pointers

We’ve seen it in the PBA so many times: a player barely gets any minutes from his team, then he gets traded and he suddenly turns into a lethal weapon. That’s the case of Mike Tolomia.

Mike only played one game for Rain or Shine in this conference (granted, he was away with Gilas for the Jones Cup and the SEA Games). In that match, he was scoreless. He played five minutes missed all three of his attempts.

Then he got traded to Meralco. Since then, he has been averaging 15.3 minutes per contest. When they played Alaska, he even set a new career-high of 24 points on a perfect 6-for-6 from three. One thing he has to watch out for though is his turnovers. In the four games that Tolomia has played with Meralco, he has collected nine errors. That’s more than two an outing.

During the SEA Games, Mike starred for Gilas in that championship game against Indonesia. I read a lot of tweets pretty much saying that Gilas Mike Tolomia is the best Mike Tolomia. I think he has finally taken that game to the PBA.

Selected Photos from PBA.ph

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