All the Phoenix Fuel Masters needed to clinch their first victory in the 2024 Honda PBA Philippine Cup was a vintage game from RR Garcia.

The Fuel Masters went on a 16-2 run midway through the fourth quarter thanks to Garcia’s efforts, building a lead that grew to as many as 17 points with 1:24 left in the game. Garcia was a steady playmaker, moving the ball around and helping his teammates pick up some points after struggling early on.

When things opened up for him, the former FEU Tamaraw drove to the basket and flashed some of the skills that made him a UAAP MVP back in 2010.

When the dust settled, the Terrafirma Dyip were left stunned and went home with a 94-78 loss. All of it thanks to a player who just needed the opportunity to show that he’s still got it.

For all his talents and the accolades he earned in college, Garcia struggled to find stability in the PBA.


Apart from a solid 2015-2016 campaign where he averaged 14.6 points (on 42.8/33.9/79.3 shooting splits), 3.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, Garcia never hit double figures in scoring and was largely relegated to a bench role. He’d have a great game here and there, but the chance to do it on a consistent basis seemed to elude him.

The 2024 Philippine Cup, however, could offer some promise of a chance for Garcia to do more. Phoenix stumbled out of the gate and to make matters worse, they lost Tyler Tio to a left ankle injury in the Fuel Masters’ first game in the All-Filipino conference. The loss of Tio opened up minutes for Garcia, who averaged 7.1 minutes per game in seven games during the 2023-2024 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

In the last two games, Garcia has played at least 25 minutes and averaged 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and converted on 61.9 percent of his shots. The three-time PBA All-Star’s performance against the Dyip was stellar to say the least, as he finished with game-highs of 20 points and 10 assists (against turnovers no less). Beyond the numbers, he’s not only proven to be ready whenever his number was called, but he has provided the stability Phoenix has needed to avert another miserable defeat.

Will Garcia get to keep his role in the Fuel Masters rotation once Tio returns? That will be the looming question once Tio ramps up his activity, but that is weeks away. At this point, though, the 34-year old has earned more playing time and the role of leading Phoenix’s offense. If that doesn’t work out, other PBA teams could certainly use his services.

Everyone knows that RR Garcia is quite the talent, but all he ever needed was an opportunity to strut his stuff. His strong performances in the 2024 Honda PBA Philippine Cup are proof of that and given that the Phoenix Fuel Masters are down a man in the backcourt, they need Garcia now more than ever.