15 September 2014

Veteran Watch: Reynel Hugnatan

Reynel Hugnatan
Among the most productive Meralco Bolts players, Reynel Hugnatan can be considered as boring. He's not a big scorer, he's not the best rebounder, and he's not a particularly good passer. He's not outspoken, or controversial, or charismatic. He doesn't have a catchy monicker. Basically he's the anti-Clifford Hodge.

All he does is show up for work every day (he played 35 games last year), play solid defense, and chip in between 8 and 11 points per game (as he has for 5 of the last 6 seasons). He's money with that pick-n-pop elbow jumper and he does everything the coach asks of him.

For that, he should be the 5-year-old Bolts’ primary candidate as their team’s future Hall of Famer.

Most of the Bolts’ fans are much more interested in the development of the youth at this point in the rebuilding plan. Hodge and the unpredictable Rabeh Al-Hussaini are supposed to be the heir apparent from a certain point of view and Hugnatan is just the veteran who's standing in their way.

Hugnatan doesn't represent the future of the franchise. That was evident when the 6-foot-4 forward was picked up by Meralco from Alaska Aces in exchange for rookie Hans Thiele and Paolo Bugia in 2011. He wasn't even with the team when Meralco acquired the Sta. Lucia franchise in 2010, so he does not have much of a nostalgic link to the past. He's just one of the many guys that was brought in to fill in the lack of ceiling and hopefully help give the franchise their first ever PBA title.

But that doesn't mean he didn't give it his all. It isn't his fault if the team failed to win a single title in its four-year of existence in the league. If anything, he's exceeded many expectations of him and provided a nice bridge between the generations. He's no franchise player but he played with some qualities. He's no spring chicken but he's certainly not old and he can still get the job done.

Right now he's just a miscast role player. He'd be a nice addition to just about any contending team, but for whatever reason he wasn't coveted enough by contenders in the offseason to warrant a trade. Part of that is the glut of solid power forwards around the league. If he was a couple of inches taller he'd probably be making 8 digits a year and would have teams beating down the Bolts’ door for him. However, this is the life of a solid-but-unspectacular power forward.

It also doesn't help that his most marketable talent, the ability to hit a midrange jumper, is out of vogue in the league right now. Apparently stats are telling the league that if you don't live in the paint or bomb three pointers, you are wrong and should be corrected at all costs. Hugnatan will never be a low post beast and he doesn't have range out to the 3 point line, so he'll have to make due with what the defenses give him at the high post.

So maybe he's a little boring. But he's also a great guy to have around.

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