Basketball is a game of points: whoever scores more, wins. It’s a simple truth that often obscures the complex reality of the sport. We all know that there is more to the game than points, but the simplicity of this idea — “scoring leads to wins” — allows it to dominate basketball culture, both from pros and from amateurs.
Watch any kid, alone, in a basketball court and, often times, you’ll see them practice making a game-winning basket or free throw. Watch an athlete practice on the court and oftentimes, it’s to develop his ability to score: dribbling moves, pull-up jumpers, catch-and-shoot jumpers and layups from any and all spots. Even the mainstream media, in order to drive more fans to see their content, compile clips filled with baskets: over-the-top three-point shots, acrobatic circus layups and screen-shaking slams are all regulars in highlight reels. Because of this, high-powered scorers often get massive amounts of attention compared to their teammates: the glue guy, the defensive guy or the “jack-of-all-trades” guy.
However, reality, especially to those who actually play the game, can be cruel. We love watching baskets but know for a fact that ballhogs — you know, guys who try to score maybe too often, get branded a certain way. They’ll be loved by many, drawing oohs and aahs on a daily basis, but to a select segment of the basketball fandom, they’re scorned — a pariah and a celebrity, at the same time.
Terrence Romeo, Bwakaw
Terrence Romeo is the perfect example of this duality that these ballhoggers live in.
As a high schooler, Terrence Romeo was the penultimate scorer: flashy, explosive and with a lot of spunk. His record-breaking 83 points in the UAAP Juniors only gave more fuel to this budding supernova of a scorer. He was a national sensation, a top recruit and, as the mainstream media caught up with him, a ballhog.
That label would follow him throughout his collegiate career, and up to now, his professional career. A superb scorer in wins and a bwakaw — a local term derived from buwaya or crocodiles, which often meant greed — in losses. His ability, and willingness, to take over games was what identified Romeo from the rest of his contemporary stars.
Ravena was the intellectual one, Teng was the physical one, Romeo was the … ballhog. It didn’t help that he struggled mightily in his rookie year playing second fiddle to eventual-MVP RR Garcia. Romeo never seemed comfortable in that role. In time, his persona and his game would put him in his rightful place as top dog in FEU. But the position, being the numero uno, made the spotlight shine brighter on his polarizing game. The critics argued:
He got his, but his team didn’t.
That is to say: he got his numbers, taking 17 and 20 shots in his final two years, averaging 19 and 22 points, respectively. Sure the percentages weren’t all that great (39.6 and 37.5) but it made for some entertaining basketball, with plenty of clutch baskets (who doesn’t want those?). Nobody quite understood him beyond “he will score a lot on you because he takes a lot of shots.”
Luckily, the wave of quantitative (i.e. numbers backed) analysis has allowed for a much more nuanced discussion on bwakaws. In the quest for efficiency and wins, people figured out that being a bwakaw isn’t really bad. Apparently, there’s an acceptable amount of gunning.
(Note: if you need a primer on what the terms here mean, visit this.)
This is a list of all the true shooting percentage and usage rates of every player in every conference over the last five years. The efficiency horizon marks the point at which the trade-off between volume and efficiency becomes good. Some of you may have a hard time understanding what these all means, so here’s a simplified version:
Yup, it’s firmly above the efficiency horizon.
Combining a 34 percent USG (he’s basically using 1/3 of his team’s possessions when he’s on the court) and a 61 TS% (way above average). Terrence Romeo has entered OMG bwakaw territory. He’s basically taking, and more importantly, making a lot of his team’s shots. Which isn’t bad, it’s in fact great.
Averaging 20.5 FGA/36 (career-high) and averaging 7 FTA/36 (career-high), while putting up an absurd 45/44/88 percentage combo (FG/3PT/FT), Romeo’s playing the best PBA basketball of his career to date. It’s normal to see players increase their efficiency when they start being more selective with their shots: picking their spots, understanding their strong points and taking advantage. But Romeo’s doing something rare: yes, Romeo’s picking his shots more carefully. But that hasn’t meant taking less shots (a normal consequence of “picking your shots”). He’s just making more on the same volume. Can he keep this up? Looking at the entirety of Romeo’s career and his trajectory, we can see a pattern:
There’s a good amount of evidence that this isn’t just a hot shooting streak for Romeo. Romeo was a gunner to start his career (two consecutive conferences of bad bwakawness) but he’s slowly worked his way to becoming a good gunner (fpur of his last eight conferences have been the good bwakaw) and is now on the precipice of becoming an OMG gunner (two of his last three conferences have entered the OMG bwakaw territory).
This may just be the start of what could become a historical career in scoring for Terrence Romeo. Still just 24, turning 25 this coming March, the upward trajectory of a big part of his game (scoring) could mean an amazing, and probably under-appreciated, career for him. Sure, people will talk about his singular records (maybe the 1st local since Player X to score this much in a game) or about his streaks (1st local since Player X to score Y points in Z straight games). But talking about his body of work — the totality of a conference or a season’s worth of scoring — will be hard without a platform to which we can compare it to. Grabbing my hands on some much needed data on other known scorers of years part (hello Allan Caidic!) would set the stage. But alas, those records, if they do exist, are collecting dust somewhere in someone’s cabinet.