Ryan Buenafe is one of those few players when he was in college you’d wait with bated breath with what he was going to do when he had the ball. Those no-look passes were cheered just as much as anyone would zoom in for a dunk or hit a huge three. He played with a lot of “angas” that had opponents hating him but secretly wishing he was on their side. He didn’t talk much on the court but he was Captain Crunch for in the endgame when he was at his deadliest. He could be 0-10 but in the last two minutes, he made the big plays.
Yet when Ryan was playing in the UAAP, it seemed like he couldn’t wait to get to the pro ranks. The college game seemed like putty in his hands. Now that he is in the PBA, the minutes have been hard to come by. So much for a huge impact.
The talent has always been there however there have been questions about his weight and concerns about his attitude in both college and pro ranks.
While in college, it must have been a humbling experience for him to sit out the fourth year of Ateneo's five-peat. He did come back with a vengeance the following year to be a part of that five-peat winning team. But the next season, in his final playing year in college, the Blue Eagles crashed out of the Final Four.
He was drafted by Alaska but more often than not, he found himself languishing on the bench. When he was given a chance to play, with more minutes, he was able to show his all-around talent. With few minutes, he didn’t do much.
A win felt like a loss. Inside the locker room, he looked crestfallen. During a loss and still with a DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision), he was even more pained.
When he reunited with his college coach in Norman Black with Meralco, this was like a new lease on life. But his weight problems and approach to the game hurt his chances of getting meaningful playing time.
Just when I thought that it was all over and Ryan sat himself out of the league came a rebirth of sorts. On his own, he shed a lot of pounds and has been a better teammate and a player. He has since made Coach Norman’s roster for the Commissioner’s Cup. Although he has played sparingly, he has given a good account of himself on the occasions he has seen playing time.
How do I look at Buenafe’s state?
It’s incredible for a player who can score, pass (with uncanny court vision), and rebound that there is no standout aspect to his game. Now if he routinely puts up triple double numbers then his all-around game will be highlighted.
For example, if you mention Jimmy Alapag, you’d say he can shoot the daylights out of a gym and that Steph Curry is shooting from Alapag territory.
If you say “Jared Dillinger” then it’s those kamikaze drives to the basket.
His cousin, Ronjay, now his Meralco Bolts teammate, is known for his explosive scoring.
If you say “Larry Fonacier” you’d note his shooting prowess followed by the description of “smart player.”
You see my point?
Ryan is a smart player but he needs to show and bring it every game and in every practice with devastating effect. Sure he is height-challenged in a tall pro league but that’s where the smarts come in. He needs to put up serious numbers and raise his game to a whole new level to be given that chance he deserves.
Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to show everyone what he can do.