Rookie forward Jeron Teng has provided a silver lining for the Alaska Aces, even as they opened up their campaign in the 2017-18 PBA Philippine Cup with back-to-back losses.
Teng, the fifth overall pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, scored 16 points in his debut, a 108-95 loss to Magnolia. He ended 2017 by dropping 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting, on top of 10 rebounds, in a 106-98 setback to TNT KaTropa.
He is currently averaging a team-high 22 points and 6 rebounds for the Aces.
"Jeron's been great," Alaska coach Alex Compton said last Friday in the wake of their second consecutive defeat. "He's a winner, he's tough, he's coachable."
Compton raved about Teng's work ethic. After their first game of the season, he revealed that their rookie was a "gym rat."
"You have to tell him, 'Jeron, go home.' He stays in there and he works on his game. It's great," the coach said.
It also thrilled Compton that Teng is humble and willing to learn, despite entering the PBA with considerable hype due to a glittering collegiate career. The coach noted that there are young players who think of themselves as "kings of the world because they had a decent college career."
This was never a problem with Teng. "Jeron actually had an awesome college career," Compton pointed out. "He's had an awesome high school career, and he's humble and coachable."
"I think Alvin and Susan should be congratulated the way they raised him, because he's a good, coachable kid," he added, referring to Teng's parents.
This is not to say that there is no room for improvement. So far, Teng's gaudy stats have yet to result in a win for Alaska, and Compton expects his rookie to struggle at some point in the conference.
"He's human," he said. "He's going to have some bad games."
"But he's been great," the coach added. "I think anytime you have a sincere hunger and a sincere humility, you're going to get better. And I think he has that."
"He's hungry, and he's humble, and that makes him coachable and teachable. We got a gem."
Teng, for his part, downplayed the great start to his PBA career. His double-double against the TNT KaTropa last week was good, he said, but he would much rather have the victory.
"Ang goal ko lang naman dito sa PBA is to help Alaska win," said Teng, who admitted that he is still adjusting to the way that the Aces play.
"May mga instances na medyo nawawala ako sa play namin, sa defense namin," he explained. "Siguro, familiarity lang rin with the players, and I think it just takes time for me to really get used to playing for Alaska."
"I'm a continuous learner of the game, and hopefully I get better in time."
Teng and the Aces return to action on January 10 against the Meralco Bolts at the Araneta Coliseum.