By Frankie Serrano
It is probably the most apt phrase I could think of if you asked me how William Navarro was as a player last season since Day One. It was balls to wall maddeningly frustrating as a fan to see a guy with his physical tools and potential tentative, indecisive, and for the most parts, looking like Bambi’s mom in front of a speeding car.
The phrase is also the best description of my fandom for William Navarro. I was consistently inconsistent in loving him or wanting to chop his head off on a game-to-game basis. The experience flitted between “Great game Will!” to “Ipasa mo!” It was maddening. I was not quite sure which William would sub in for Raffy Verano everytime. It was pure uncertainty, much like to which Patrick Tchuente will show up.
It didn’t help that heading into Season 82, Ateneo was faced with uncertainties as to who will take the starting power forward spot vacated by Verano, thanks to being academically ineligible. It seems like I’m stuck in Season 79 all over again when we lost the Genius Seven. No power forward to speak of, much less someone who provided steady numbers, surprisingly, and the spot up shooting to space the floor for Ange Kouame and Thirdy Ravena.
The options presented to Coach Tab and his staff were: Matthew Daves, Pat Magdenberg, and William Navarro.
Daves got very limited burn in Season 81 (6mpg, 2.1ppg, 1.3rpg) and he didn’t move the way Verano did, or his predecessor Vince Tolentino. The lateral quickness wasn’t there for what Tab wanted out of his power forward: which is the ability to pitch the dribble hand-offs and slide quickly to open spots on the floor and wait for opportunities to strike. It was something Tolentino did so well in their Season 80 campaign and Verano to an extent in Season 81 as the full time starter.
Magdenberg? I mean I love Fat Pat and all man, but he a rook and the foot speed again is an issue, shooting is a question mark, defense is also a question mark. Again, uncertainties. I hate it. I dread it.
Which brings me back, in the most Thanos moment I can think of, to William Navarro. Yes, William, the circumstances brought me back to you. Brought Ateneo back to you, its fans included, who probably yanked their hair off every time you had a bonehead play (and there was a lot mind you) but clapped so hard their hands almost fell off when you made a very smart play (probably not that moment Thirdy grabbed you by the collar but you get it).
But there really was no choice, aside from drastically making Thirdy Ravena start at four and moving Medium Mike Nieto as the starting three, there was no one else Ateneo can turn to, I can turn to. We don’t have much to work with, “generously” putting up 3.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 14 games while having a split of 34.5%/4.3%/90.9% from the field, three-point land, and free throw line respectively. Those are not much to go by compared to the number Verano posted (7.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 41.2%/32%/65%). But again, you’re all we had.
Back to you, that’s where we went. Someone who has frustrated and elated me since day one, William, making jokes that you should have stayed in Greece to toughen up a little bit.
The elimination round and stepladder have ended and here we are waiting in the wings. William, for all your consistent inconsistency last season, you have been anything but. All uncertainties have gone out the window with your very solid play this year. Spectacular highlights are not littered in your body of work, but deadly efficiency marked it. You haven’t wasted a bullet all year long as you’ve displayed everyone what Tab wants in his power forwards: mobile, quick on their feet, ability to initiate and be the fulcrum of an offense, and strike at opportunities when presented.
The William Navarro of Season 82 has made the inevitability of Ateneo even more undeniable as an already good team is pushing MAGIS with his play this year. While the stats may not pop out from the sheets, 7.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1 block against 1.7 turnovers in 13 outings are absolutely outstanding. He has been the perfect complement beside Ange Kouame despite only hitting a Ryan Buenafe-esque 14.8% from downtown but it is his basketball IQ that makes him effective.
Out of all the Blue Eagles who have had a bad game or two, William has been consistently consistent. Bad offensive game in terms of touches and shots attempted? No worries, grab rebounds, make the right pass, and make the right defensive rotation, easy 30 on the efficiency rating. Without fail.
In the upcoming Finals against a supercharged UST, Navarro has quite the daunting task ahead of him. He’ll be the main cover to league MVP Soulmane Chabi Yo, who has been monstrous the entire tournament, flashing his combination of speed, footwork, and skills unseen since Ben Mbala. Then he also has to contend with bangers like Dave Ando and Ira Battaller, and stretch four rookie Sherwin Concepcion.
But I have no worries. Even if Ange or Thirdy perform a bit sub-par, there’s always that starting power forward who has only been “Great game William!” to hold the line confidently this time around, uncertainties washed away.
Consistently consistent for Season 82.
Since Day One.