Ken Tuffin’s gambit to forgo his last playing year with Far Eastern University (FEU) led to a championship with a pro club in New Zealand.
It would’ve been enough reason to stick it out Down Under, but Tuffin views it as something else.“I felt like there was a lot of unfinished business, right?” he said shortly after being selected sixth overall by Phoenix in the 2023 PBA Rookie Draft on Sunday.
“I didn’t get to play in my last year in FEU because of the pandemic. Otherwise, I would’ve gone to the PBA draft after my senior year. So I took a three-year pro stint in New Zealand.”
Tuffin feels that playing professionally will serve as a leg up as he gets to work for the Fuel Masters, who are trying to wiggle themselves out of the fringes of the league’s qualifying threshold for the playoffs.
Phoenix has been in a bind, trying its darndest to put together a deep playoff run since losing Matthew Wright.
And Tuffin feels he can sort of help ease that absence, especially with stints with two different NBL (National Basketball League) clubs under his belt.
“It’ll help me big time. I feel like my IQ is a lot better,” he said. “I think the one thing that Phoenix likes is my versatility, knowing that I can play the two (shooting guard) or the three (small forward) primarily but also switching out to the four (power forward) if I need to. I’ve done that before.”
A talent like Tuffin can surely be an asset for Phoenix. But that’s a reality that also applies to the 11 other clubs in the league.
Tuffin performing well in his rookie year could also make him a viable trade target sooner than later for richer teams—a scenario Rain or Shine mentor Yeng Guiao tackled shortly after the annual selection held at Market! Market! in Taguig.
“If you’re serious about competing, this is the time for you to pick your talent and develop that talent. If you’re not serious, you’re merely an incubator,” the fiery coach said.
“If you’re a team looking to strengthen your team now, this is your time. (There’s a) record number of draftees. Very deep with talent. The good thing is the strong teams were unable to land the top draftees,” he went on.“(TNT) did not get to pick early. The same with San Miguel, Magnolia and Ginebra. The only problem is, in one or two years, chances are the players we picked now will go to them.”As far as Tuffin is concerned, he is eager to make his time with Phoenix worthwhile.
“I’m looking forward to contributing to Phoenix, winning some games and making the playoffs. Let’s see what happens,” he said.
Whether his team—whose mother company went through a turbulent financial year late in 2022—keeps him for the long haul, however, is another conversation. INQ
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