Mike Nieto had plenty of motivation going into his PBA debut which ended with an impressive 21-point performance in Rain or Shine’s victory over NorthPort.
The former Gilas Pilipinas member hit four triples while adding eight rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes as a starter, helping the Elasto Painters defeat the Batang Pier, 104-90, Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Nieto was one of four members of the Gilas pool that were drafted in the special round of the 2019 draft that made their pro debuts this week, along with twin brother Matt of NLEX, Rey Suerte of Blackwater and Isaac Go of Terrafirma.
Matt had 10 points and two assists in NLEX’s 110-100 loss to Meralco the other day, Suerte fired 16 in the Blackwater’s shock 109-103 defeat to Terrafirma, which saw Go going scoreless in six minutes.
Alaska’s Allyn Bulanadi won’t be making his first PBA appearance until Feb. 17 against Rain or Shine.
But it was Mike who ended up standing tall among his fellow ex-Gilas cagers while allowing him to once again prove critics wrong.
“Binigyan tuon ko yung workout ko kasi ever since college, alam naman natin na ayaw ng mga tao sa akin sa Gilas, diba? Marami yan e,” he said during a postgame interview conducted on television.
“It’s either you prove them wrong or i-prove mo na tama sila,” added the former Ateneo stalwart.
Nieto’s work ethic impressed Rain or Shine coach Chris Gavina, who placed him on the starting lineup against NorthPort.
Gavina sang praises for Nieto, even calling him “All Day Nieto” for his all-around effort.
“I’ve never seen anyone have more floor burns on his first day of practice than Mike Nieto for as long as I’ve been here,” Gavina said.
“Just credit to the type of player he is and the intensity and effort that he brings day in and day out. He probably works harder in practice than in the game.
“He was just having fun out there. We’re really glad he came in and injected the energy and the effort for us to come out with a big win tonight,” he added.
It was the spark ROS needed in order to stop a two-game skid which came before the league took a break due to last month’s COVID-19 surge.
ROS improved to 3-3 halfway into its elimination round campaign in the season-ending conference.