By Joseph W Buduan
6-8 November 2013, Quezon City – It was his first taste of PBA action, sort of. He went up against two of the toughest, meanest big men in the pros, and it wasn’t really pretty. He took an entry pass on the right box, turned to face-basket, pump faked then put the ball on the floor. His defender got a piece of the leather and it hit his own knee before bouncing out of bounds. In another play, he was able to grab an offensive rebound. He gathered himself a bit before jumping up for the attempted put-back. He never saw the help defense coming, and what looked like an easy basket was rejected. It was only an offseason scrimmage and he was already getting a taste of what the real thing would be like.
At the halftime break his coach got everyone in a huddle as he broke down the first half of this scrimmage. Greg Slaughter was sweating profusely but listened intently. When the buzzer sounded anew he went right back to the pounding, pushing and grinding of scrimmage. He was using a lot of the moves he learned under his former Ateneo coach, Norman Black. He had that ball fake, that drop step, and using the body to carve space for that hook shot. He’ll be facing Black as an opponent in the pros.
He would finish with a very good 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks by our count in spite of the pounding he took from veteran big men Beau Belga, JR Quinahan and Larry Rodriguez. “I was expecting that, coming from this team; they’re pretty well known for that. I just have to play through it,” he said after the scrimmage.
At a long seven feet and well-muscled 250-plus pounds it is hard to imagine Slaughter as anything other than a basketball player, especially in a country mad for the sport. He was selected Number 1, first overall among 79 total applicants, in the recent PBA draft held just a couple days back at Robinson’s Place Manila.
Throughout his college career he pretty much did whatever he wanted on the court. Most centers in the college ranks are 6-foot-5 of shorter. Bearing a height advantage of easily half a foot and at least 30 pounds in heft, Slaughter pretty much ruled in Cebu (for the University of the Visayas) and in Manila (for the Ateneo De Manila). He helped the Blue Eagles complete an historic 5-Peat in the UAAP, while completing a personal 5-Peat by winning three straight with his Green Lancers in the CESAFI. After this scrimmage though, he acknowledges that he still has a lot of work to do for the pros. “I’m still trying to learn the system, but I have very good teammates who are all helping me out,” he said.
Slaughter’s transition into the pros should be made easier with having a fellow Blue Eagle up front. He will team up with 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar, who played for the Ateneo for two years in the UAAP, in a new-look frontline for Barangay Ginebra. “I love playing with Japeth. We were already teammates once with Smart Gilas a couple years back. Japeth’s a really good help-side defender and shot blocker,” he added.
Slaughter is pretty much getting a lot of immersion into the world of the PBA big men. After the blood-and-guts triumvirate of Rain Or Shine, he then took on a familiar face with Air 21 less than 48 hours later. Venerable 6-foot-9 veteran Asi Taulava had to work harder against one of the few men taller than him in Philippine basketball as he anchored the lane for his Express against Slaughter’s Gin Kings.
Taulava, a former PBA MVP, was Slaughter’s teammate on that same Gilas team that also had Aguilar about two years ago. He had some good words for his former national teammate. “I had to change some of my shots against him,” Taulava said with a chuckle. “Greg is young so they have to be patient with him, but he is seven feet tall and you know what they say about height,” he added.
Right now though it looks like Slaughter’s main focus should be on holding position at either box, and cutting with more alacrity into the lane from either direction. His center of gravity looks a little high, so he will also have to work on his core strength and crouching a little lower when sealing off and asking for entry passes. Overall though, it looks like he is just what the doctor ordered for a franchise dying to get back into fulltime title contention. Taulava perhaps summed it up best, “He’s got a lot of upside, a lot.”