05 September 2011

Rookie Watch: Jason Ballesteros

Jason Ballesteros
Notwithstanding critical claims that it was a lopsided trade, Meralco Bolt's rookie draft Jason Ballesteros is expected to make a big impact in the upcoming All-Filipino campaign of the team. The 7th pick overall in the draft will be forming a formidable frontline with Asi Taulava, Gabby Espinas and Reynel Hugnatan. If Marlou Aquino’s contract is extended for just a few months, the Bolts will be boasting of one of the tallest frontline in the league.

The 6-foot-7 Ballesteros will be providing the Bolts both offense and defense the whole game just like what he did in college with the San Sebastian Stags. He was the final cog for his team back then that he was names as the most dominant defensive player in the 84th NCAA seniors basketball tournament. He also led the tournament in statistical points for two seasons.

"He loves to block shots, rebound and play defense. But he can score points like that if the opportunity presents itself," said San Sebastian coach Jorge Gallent of his 24-year-old former center, who finished almost double-double in each of his stint on the floor.

When he was chosen to be a part of the SMART GILAS national team roster, he had to compete for the limited minutes given to him by coach Rajko Toroman. Nevertheless, the scant exposure did not pose any attitude problems from the young player who strived hard to perform even if he is undersized for his position.

"Jason was a revelation in the GILAS' stint in Dubai last January (2011) where he played beyond everybody’s expectations. Besides, he may not produce eye catching figures in the stat sheets but he can give the opposing teams’ big men big headache," SMART GILAS skipper, Chris Tiu, said.

Ballesteros made good use of his bull-strong physique and will power in guarding much bigger international centers who stood from 6-foot-10 to 7-feet.

Ballesteros' most promising attributes stem from his physical tools, where he mixes a high level of athleticism with extreme fluidity and mobility. His versatility allows him to play big in the interior, an attractive quality from a PBA standpoint. Playing alongside Sol Mercado should be a fantastic boost to his stock, as his pinpoint passing should minimize Ballesteros' struggles as a shot-creator. Ballesteros’ ability to impact a game without requiring the ball should make him a fit on almost any PBA roster.

"He may have not been getting (more) minutes during recent tournaments but it hasn’t stopped him from working hard during practices. It's not easy banging bodies with Marcus Douthit and Asi Taulava, but every time he gets hurt or hit hard in practice, he just sucks it up and continues playing. He just doesn't quit. He probably will never be a go-to-guy offensively, but he will be a very good defensive player in the PBA," Tiu added.

Most of the PBA coaches also saw how Ballesteros gradually improve as his San Sebastian College stint progressed, wisely picking and choosing his spots on the floor. With good size and a high release on his jumper, Ballesteros should excel at the next level of post-up play. As a shot-blocker, Ballesteros shows tremendous body control and timing when opposing shooters move in the paint. His high basketball IQ and strong character make him a potential cornerstone at the power-forward position for the Bolts.

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