Welcome to the PBA moments are either stellar showings or rude awakenings. Encho Serrano’s was a generous mix of both.

Serrano contributed to the early lead Phoenix had against the San Miguel Beermen, maximizing his youth and athleticism against the talented yet depleted SMB backcourt.

Things changed, though, once two-time PBA Defensive Player of the Year Chris Ross was matched up with him and figured things out, as Serrano struggled to build on a strong effort from much of the first half. The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters unfortunately followed suit, as they had fed off Serrano’s activity. Even as the deficit never reached more than nine points, the Fuel Masters could not match the Beermen and suffered a 108-100 season-opening loss.

Serrano finished his first PBA game with some solid numbers as the former DLSU Green Archer scored 15 points (all in the first half), grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out five assists in 25 minutes of game action.

Questions surrounding Serrano’s PBA chances were largely based on his lack of a consistent jumpshot, as he got most of his offense in the amateur ranks through strong drives to the basket and relentless efforts on second chance opportunities. That it also translated to success in his PBA 3×3 stint with Barangay Ginebra somewhat allayed those fears but only put into focus how it would fare in a 5×5 setup.

His strong showing for Ginebra in PBA 3×3 and in the PBA Draft combine (where Serrano was named MVP) played a part in convincing Phoenix to select him with the 19th overall pick in the 2022 PBA Draft even after drafting Tyler Tio five spots earlier. Add to the fact that Phoenix already had Matthew Wright, Sean Manganti, RR Garcia, Aljun Melecio, and RJ Jazul and that gives the Fuel Masters quite a deep roster.


In the past, Serrano’s drives can become reckless and result in turnovers, so it was a welcome development that he finished with zero turnovers against San Miguel. Playing against stronger and more seasoned opponents certainly didn’t bother him as he made 60 percent of his 2-point attempts. The shaky shooting? Well it wasn’t necessarily the case as he made one of his three 3-point attempts.

The gravity Serrano draws with his playing style certainly created some opportunities for his teammates. While some of them could not convert on those chances, more game time will lead to better outcomes. Regardless, being able to create others should bode well for additional chances of playing as he can slot into additional positions depending on whether Phoenix will go big or small.

At times, it will be difficult to evenly share the minutes among a long list of capable and talented set of guards. Fuel Masters head coach Topex Robinson will continue to rely on the likes of Wright, Jason Perkins, Sean Anthony, and whoever has the hot hand and a performance like the one against a solid team like SMB should keep Serrano in consideration.

However, rookie lumps are to be expected. Teams will get a better look at Serrano from in a PBA setting and defenses will adjust accordingly. For what it’s worth, being guarded by Ross with barely even a game under his belt could even be regarded as the highest form of respect. Cold nights will be inevitable and foul trouble will keep him off the court. Generously listed at 6 feet, he will likely be the target of bigger and wiser guards or even teams that can draw favorable switches onto him.

Rather than really zeroing in what challenges he will deal with, how the 22-year old responds to the highs and lows of professional basketball will be something to note of. Besides, what’s a rookie year but a basketball education?

One game may be too little to go on with in terms of judging a career in the PBA, but Encho Serrano made quite the impression in his PBA debut with the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters despite suffering a defeat. Serrano and the Fuel Masters will have to work on a few things moving forward, but there are indications of a path forward, something they should wisely pursue.