Who D’Ya Got, Hotshots?

Ricardo Ratliffe'(20) gave Star a solid force in the shaded lane. (Photo by Sherwin Vardeleon and CNN Philippines)
Ricardo Ratliffe (20) gave Star a solid force in the shaded lane. (Photo by Sherwin Vardeleon and CNN Philippines)


As the Filipino proverb says, “May pera sa basura“, that seemed to be the bread and butter on the court of Ricardo Ratliffe in the PBA.

The former Jones Cup MVP just steered Star Hotshots to a four-game winning streak before bumping into previous conference champs San Miguel Beermen, who played without their prized frontcourt duo of Arwind Santos (death of his mom) and the reigning best player in the country today in June Mar Fajardo (hurting knee).

Ratliffe just came as a replacement to the team’s resident import Denzel Bowles to attend personal issues back in the US but in contrast with the latter, the former brought his team-player instinct with the team.

Bowles, a former best import award recipient, appeared to have his usual numbers despite being away from the team for quite some time but he’s been getting all his production on his own.

It’s no secret to everybody that he steered the erstwhile B-MEG Derby Ace Llamados to a championship, thanks to Tim Cone who instilled his triangle offense to the team after accepting the coaching job couple of years back.

Unfortunately, Bowles has to exert more effort to get his output.

Since Jason Webb took the helm, the beauty of ball movement that Bowles played growing up as a pro (and Mama Bowles used to watch with the mad crowd) is now gone as the former Sta. Lucia Realtor defensive ace will use run-and-gun system.

Run-and-gun. Not bad for a team that has speedsters like Mark Barroca, Alex Mallari and Justin Melton, big guys who can stretch up and down the court with Rafi Reavis and Ronald Pascual, and finishers like PJ Simon and THE James Yap.

But now that the triangle offense, that gives everybody equal opportunity to crack at the basket, is no longer dictating the phase, James Yap can now get his high-scoring act going; PJ Simon can have a resurgence pf his infamous late-game heroics and; Justin Melton finally get into the highlight reel.

Bowles tend to dribble from the top of the key and pull up a jumper on his comfort zone numerous times, unlike where he is being either being setup by his teammates or anchoring the triangle like the sun with all four other planets moving around him gazillion times quicker.

Ratliffe, on the other hand, can be compared with his fellow PBA reinforcement MJ Rhett (with more patience and outside a team who’s searching for more cohesion). He’s been getting his points by turning trash into gold off offensive boards and his patience speaks volumes on his international exposure, particularly during his tenure with the Korean Basketball League (KBL) where Koreans are known to be as cat-quick ball-handlers other than being deadly snipers from downtown.

In addition, he is the absolute last guy on the list if you’re going to foul somebody on this team as he is htting almost 90% from the charity stripe.

It’s almost a sure deuce once he picks up a missed shot and his pump-fakes are his best friend to free himself up underneath (and if God gave you the extra slice of luck, you might get the bruise but an opportunity for an and-one). We may not see him doing thunderous rim rattlers but either a slam or not, they are both worth two points.

He rarely resort to a one-one isolation down the low-block and he is looking for a higher-percentage shot at a higher percentage spot. If the shot is not available, Cardo doesn’t force shots – he is passing the ball willingly back to his PG and reset.

The former Mizzou stalwart rarely demands for the ball to get to his hands but his 33-point 21-rebound performance against his close friend Tyler Wilkerson-led Beermen, that number of points would be enough for somebody to conclude he tried to take over the game by himself.

But that’s not the case for him. He’s not forcing the issue once he had his hands on the leather.

He’ still doing his thing. There may be times that he needs to be aggressive down the stretch but the support was simply scarce and now that when Yap is starting to regain his old, deadly form, he is now down with after hurting his calf.

We can simply point out that Maliksi did not have his game going as most of his points came in garbage time but going back to Bowles and Ratliffe comparison, the former could be the more-loved guy by the legions of Star followers but the latter deserves that second look.

Whether they bring back the former JMU Duke or not, the numbers might be almost identical but the chances of others to do their job to get buckets and contribute might dwindle.

It would be a tough decision to make for the management for sure. Will they bank on the guy who have won championships for them or stick to the guy who gave them a ray of hope just when Bowles cannot give the Hotshots the W under the new system?

They’re currently the cellar of the “frontrunners” for elimination with 4-5 win-loss card.

Their fate will be decided in their next two assignments. Not my call.

To give you a disclaimer, while I am writing this article, I am so d*mn hungry as hell.


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