By JONAS TERRADO
TNT’s Kib Montalbo is literally the newest kid on the block.
The sophomore guard out of La Salle fired a career-high 22 points while adding five rebounds and three steals even as he amped up his defensive role that enabled the Tropang Giga to snap the Batang Pier’s three-game winning streak in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The win, more importantly, secured for the Tropang Giga a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Rookie Mikey Williams and coach Chot Reyes heaped up praise on Montalbo, who is averaging 13.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in the last four games that saw his exposure grow to least 24 minutes.
“Kib’s a dog,” said Williams. “He’s giving us that little energy spark that we need day in and day out, picking up 94 feet and picking on, most of the time, the best challenges that we have.
“And he’s holding his own, he’s doing really well, and I applaud him. He’s gonna continue to get better,” he added.
The two combined for 21 points in the third, with Montalbo firing 10 in a rare display of offensive outburst.
Reyes, on the other hand, said Montalbo kept himself committed to improve his game even when the conference began with the 6-foot guard spending most of the time on the bench.
It was during an 83-67 loss to San Miguel last Sept. 8 that Montalbo began his run of form as Reyes fielded in his second and third unit when the Tropang Giga were behind by a huge margin.
With Montalbo doing well, the minutes of Jayson Castro have reduced, though the long-time TNT star said he has welcomed such since guys like Montalbo are doing well.
“Kib has been putting in the work in practice,” Reyes said. “And the work that he’s putting in in practice, extra shots, spending time in the weights room, extra conditioning, I think it’s showing on the basketball court.”