Questions hung about him even before the game started. Will he play at or even surpass public expectation especially that of the team’s fans? Will he be better than the last very dominant Center of the Blue Eagles?
Being Greg Slaughter is not easy it seems. A lot of pundits deem him soft and doesn’t power his opponents down. Some say he isn’t athletic enough or fast enough to recover on defense. Others point out how a 7-foot guy can pull down less than eight rebounds in a single game. One mistake is all it takes for them to cave a player in. Not today though.
Ateneo’s new pillar underneath, Greg Slaughter is good, but he is still considered a study in the art of being a center. Ateneo fans take heart however since he is currently enrolled in the Norman Black School of Big Men. Obviously I just made that out pointing to how coach Norman Black transformed oft-maligned bigs like Doug Kramer (the butter finger-y dude of the past turned reliable 4), Ford Arao (the most maligned of them all) Rabeh Al-Hussaini (lazy tall dude with a bad temper) and lately, Justin Chua (the tall Chinese guy who couldn’t sink a jumpshot before). In a tradition of keeping a surprise for the Ateneo Blue Eagles year after year since he took over, Coach Black had his hands full in the offseason. It was spent trying to incorporate his returning crew with the crack recruits. Aside from that, he also had the unenviable task of turning Greg Slaughter into a beast in the middle. That means whatever experience Slaughter had as a member of Smart GILAS Pilipinas, Norman Black will try to sharpen. He will try to make that drop step so effective it gives him such a wide room to operate. Coach Black will sharpen his elbows so that the “weak” tab against his prized center would be taken off. He will make him the center of the future. The pillar of strength he is supposed to be, for Philippine basketball.
The progress showed in Ateneo’s first acid test against Adamson, their opening game nonetheless. Slaughter took it to the teeth of the Falcon’s defense, testing their limits. Suddenly, pundits of the big man were shrinking, if not disappearing. The big man put the ball up again and again with no hesitation, only determination to put to rest doubts that covered the Ateneo center. In the end, he put 9 out of 14 tries through the net. I only saw him take two jumpshots. The rest were vicious forays into the hoop where Adamson’s vaunted frontline was beaten into submission. He shook off the platoon of big men Adamson coach Leo Austria sent his way. From Lionel “Austin” Manyara, to Eric Camson, to Jan Collina, and even reed-thin Rodney Brondial, Greg Slaughter slew them all on his way to 23 points including a thundering jam to ignite an Ateneo team in stupor.
Apart from scoring, Slaughter also managed to pull down 8 boards to go along with two assists and two huge blocks. So much for saying he doesn’t do the dirty work when he blocked a potentially tying lay-up from Falcons star Lester Alvarez. So much for saying he can’t play defense when the only times Manyara and the rest of the Adamson frontline were able to score was with Greg glued to his seat on the bench.
However, with all the positives of Greg Slaughter in his first official UAAP game, there is still much more left to do. One is to be consistent, second is to be hungry, and third, just continue to improve game by game. After all, superstars are not made overnight. Let the Reign of Slaughter commence.