The Abu Tratter that the Alaska Aces currently have on their roster is a far cry from the one that first stepped on the court with the DLSU Green Archers back in 2014.
During his time with the Green Archers, Tratter was tasked with rebounding and defending the opposing team’s best big man and almost never had to be depended on offensively apart from when he dunks it on the opposition. Three seasons into his PBA career, however, the Filipino-American has blossomed into the main big man for the Aces, who currently find themselves at 2-2 so far in the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup.
Alaska was looking to turn a corner after two successive losses in the Philippine Cup and they may have just done so with a 74-48 win over the previously undefeated Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. That statement win may not have been possible without Tratter, who finished with his second consecutive double-double of 12 points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
His effort on the boards was contagious as the Aces held a dominant 62-46 advantage in rebounds. The fact that they had more defensive rebounds (52) than the Elsato Painters had points (48) sums up how tough a night it was for Rain or Shine, especially with Alaska’s effort and energy on defense. As a result, the Aces prevented the Elasto Painters from getting extra possessions and nearly limited them to a PBA record-low in single-game scoring.
Through four games, Tratter has averaged 12.75 points, 9.25 rebounds, and 1.50 assists per game. A member of the 2019 PBA All-Rookie Team, his numbers have gone up each year and it has not gone unnoticed. The big man who traces his roots to Siniloan Laguna has been called up to the national team twice and should PBA players once again participate, it’s hard not to think he won’t be in the discussion.
Tratter’s spots on offense are a bit more predictable compared to your modern big man as apart from the occasional jumpshot, he operates mostly inside the paint and thrives in the post. On the elbow, he is more likely to pass, hand off, and set screens. How the former Green Archer puts these all together however, makes him effective.
Thanks to the tutelage of two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso (who also helped coached up six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo), Tratter has been able to combine size with brute force and at times finesse when generating his own offense. He can hit defenders with the drop step but it’s his countermoves when guarded that make him a tougher cover. Apart from his work on the low block, he has also become an effective roller who can easily seal his way into the middle and locate the right spots for easy baskets.
Tratter is an effective rebounder but don’t let that distract you from his ability to be a rim protector as well. Having had to defend the likes of Ola Adeogun, Alfred Aroga, and Ben Mbala (in practice of course), he has no problems guarding opposing (and at times imposing) big men. With more coaching, especially at the pro level, he has gotten more disciplined on that end even with his low block numbers (0.25 per game in 2021).
In terms of PBA years, Tratter remains to be one of the younger players and he still has areas he can improve on. Turnovers have been a concern since his college days and he has had two games this season where he committed at least four turnovers. It isn’t an unsolvable issue, as it all boils down to controlling his aggression on the offensive end. The Alaska coaching staff shouldn’t fault him for that but instead teach him to continue to read what the defense gives him and continue to help him with his consistency and footwork.
Offensively, he has gotten better shots with each passing game as his field goal percentage in the last two games was at .522 compared to .300 in the first two games. Shot selection will improve as he continues to get into the groove especially after a seven-month layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will, however, have to take note of how defenses will be more attuned to his game especially with more opportunities to scout him.
Initially drafted by the Blackwater Elite, the trade to the Alaska Aces has done wonders for the career of Abu Tratter and in turn his team. The season is still young but the big man has already made strides that have the Aces primed for an extended run in the Philippine Cup.