Barring any major injury or serious setback, Baser Amer’s basketball career would definitely go far.
I came up with this conclusion after seeing the fire in his eyes when he powered Meralco to a 104-102 win over Barangay Ginebra in Game 2 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup best-of-seven finals series last Friday at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
That game surely defined the character of Amer.
It gave me an impression that if you rip his chest wide open, you will see a big fighting heart made up of steel with barbs all over for added protection against predators like Ginebra.
Amer surely displayed a killer mentality.
With Ginebra threatening to mount a comeback in the final 3:20 mark, Amer knocked down a deep three-pointer to pad Meralco’s lead, 96-88. Then, he knocked out another trey a minute later, giving the Bolts a 10-point lead entering the final two-minute mark of the game.
More than putting the Bolts out of harm’s way, it destroyed the morale of the Kings, who played like neighborhood toughies when they gave Amer and the rest of the crew a neat lesson on how it is to compete in the biggest stage of professional basketball in the country.
When the smoke of the battle cleared, Amer piled up 17 points that drew a lot of praises from Meralco coach Norman Black.
“Baser and the bench players played really well. They shot the ball well tonight,” said Black before the Bolts rolled back to Manila with the series reduced into a best-of-five encounter.
But Amer’s scorching performance didn’t come out of nowhere.
It was a result of hard work, determination — and a lot of pushing and grinding from Black.
In fact, he was virtually invisible in Game 1 as he played like a young boy who was thrown into a dungeon full of hungry wolves.
In the series opener, Amer was so insignificant that LA Tenorio — a heady and highly skilled playmaker who cut his teeth under the mentorship of Black at Ateneo de Manila University — destroyed him on both ends of the floor.
Amer finished with only nine points on a nightmarish 2-of-10 shooting from the field in Meralco’s sorry setback in the series opener, 87-91.
And Black couldn’t hide his disappointment over the 27-year-old playmaker.
Amer’s dismal performance in Game 1 wasn’t new.
The former San Beda star has a reputation of melting under the bright lights of the PBA finals and getting cold feet and sweaty palms when ranged against other elite playmakers like Tenorio.
In their previous finals series two years ago, Amer was also out of sight.
He was shut down Game 7 with only six points while Tenorio waltzed his way to a 26-point explosion to help the Kings clinch their second straight Governors’ Cup title.
Although Amer vowed to bounce back from that forgettable performance, his dismal showing in Game 1 again gave his mentor — a well-known disciplinarian — enough ammo to blast him in the media, even prompting Daily Tribune to rip him, branding him as an “invisible man” for completely disappearing when his team needed him the most.
For weak and fragile players, who were pampered by coaches, managers and fans the very moment they touched a basketball, these criticisms would definitely hurt their ego.
It would definitely lead to poor plays inside the court and destruction inside the locker room in which he would cry and moan while blaming everybody but himself.
Well, not Amer.
The rising star came up with a perfect response by torching the Kings from the outside and running circles around Tenorio, the playmaker who has been bullying him with gutsy plays and clutch baskets in their previous finals battles.
His golden performance in Game 2 only showed that Amer is ready for big-time basketball.
He is no longer the kid with cold feet and sweaty palms who doesn’t know what it takes to compete in the biggest stage in professional basketball in the country.
He had fully grown from a young boy who was thrown into a dungeon full of hungry wolves to a warrior who is ready to slug it out against the world’s fiercest predators.
With that, he deserves my respect.
I know Amer had seen and heard all criticisms hurled against him and there’s no perfect revenge by firing all those treys that buried the Kings into oblivion.
I just hope professional athletes also would be like Amer in handling criticisms and the critical, sometimes annoying, sportswriters.