Throwback Thursday: Next Best PG

This article originally appeared in SLAM #194

You’ve been warned. Stanley Pringle is on a quest for singular excellence.

By Jane Bracher

How many great people do you know actually intended to be great? How many of history’s greatest humans woke up every day or walked out the door one day with the sole purpose of becoming great however way possible?

Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling, Mahatma Gandhi, or even Neil Armstrong, among thousands of others, didn’t devote their energies in the pursuit of greatness or becoming the best. Rowling, for one, didn’t plan on writing a book series that changed a generation. She just wrote a story she had in her head.

It’s not wrong for any of us to want to leave our own mark on this world. But in today’s accelerated pace of life – where a clever viral video can catapult anybody to fame or even fortune – we often lose ourselves lose along the way.

But not Stanley Pringle.

Pringle, the special talent

There was much hype surrounding the entry of Pringle in the 2014 PBA Rookie Draft. He was, after all, a product of NCAA Division I team Penn State. He was a well-traveled veteran who played in Belgium, Poland, and Ukraine, before leading the Indonesia Warriors to the 2012 ASEAN Basketball League title.

He was said to be a quick, athletic, and intelligent point guard. The buzz was loud enough that PBA All-Star guard, Mark Barroca, felt the need to binge watch Pringle’s highlights on YouTube to get ready for their match-up.

True enough, the Filipino-American was the top overall pick of that year’s draft selected by Globalport Batang Pier. He certainly lived up to expectations set by the excitement from his highlight mix-tapes. In his first season, he won the Rookie of the Year award, was a member of the PBA Mythical Second Team, and was even an All-Star.

No doubt Pringle is special.

“From the start talagang nasilip na namin si Stanley from the ABL,” says Globalport head coach Pido Jarencio, who has been guiding Pringle through to his second year in the PBA. “Talagang exceptional siya e. Nung dumating siya sa PBA alam na namin na magde-deliver siya.”

“Great player. Super talented,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton, likewise impressed with Pringle, says. “If he wants to play for Alaska they should go ahead and call me. I will accept their outreach but I don’t think anybody in their right mind would let him go.”

Pringle’s talent is always on full display under Jarencio’s free-flowing system. At 6-foot-1, he is agile, fast, smart, and as he has shown so far in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup, he can certainly shoot the lights out or hit clutch baskets.

“I don’t know a coach in the league who wouldn’t do a back flip if they got him,” Compton adds. “He’s a special talent.”

Stanley, the persistent

Even before high school Pringle already established the kind of person he wanted to be – someone who knew not to quit and always worked hard. He learned never to give up even when he went through trying circumstances as an adolescent.

“Good thing I have a good family around me,” Pringle shares. “They actually got on me really hard and was like, ‘yeah right you’re not gonna quit.’ They kind of got mad and it woke me up. Ever since then I never had a thought about giving up.”

Now, Pringle doesn’t even let bad or lazy days get to him. He is often 30 to 45 minutes early for practice and stays for about an hour after practice to put in extra work or improve his shooting.

“Before when I was younger,” he answers when asked if he ever feels like slacking off, “but not anymore because this is what I want to do.”

After he was slowed down by injuries in his rookie year, Pringle made a commitment to keep himself healthy by making it part of his routine to constantly assess his body and work on the muscles around his legs and knees. He also does pool workouts such as running and jogging in the water, along with ice baths everyday and as he stresses, “Definitely a lot of stretching.”

The sophomore guard is strongly self-motivated, driven by his faith and family back home in Virginia to get up every day.

He has a clear idea of the Stanley Pringle he wishes to be – both as a basketball player and as a person.

“With adversity you just keep going,” he says. “Everybody falls down but you gotta just get back up.”

Pringle, the best point guard?

Pringle was influenced as early as 5 years old to play basketball by his father who coached a ship team aboard the USS Independence in the American Navy. Pringle realized at around 11 to 12 years old he would not be gifted with height. So he quickly picked up on playing the point.

Almost two decades since, he’s now on pace to challenge for the throne of best point guard in the PBA. Though some already put him up there with the likes of Asia’s best playmaker Jayson Castro and Alaska’s JVee Casio.

“Para sa akin, oo, he is (the best) right now,” declares veteran gunner Dondon Hontiveros. “Siyempre nandiyan pa rin sila JVee (Casio) pero he is right now, he’s really creating. Two-guard abilities siya pero point guard mentality. So napakahirap talaga bantayan. Tapos yung experience niya before coming into the PBA malaking bagay and he’s now being aggressive. Marami pa siyang papahirapan na teams.”

“Super tough guard niya. Para siyang import eh,” Barroca admits. “Nire-respeto siya kasi hindi siya basta-bastang point guard. Iba yung ability niya. Pag siya dedepensahan mo dapat focused ka talaga. Eh kasi isang mali mo lang iiwanan ka niya talaga. Silang dalawa talaga ni Jayson (Castro) yung tough guards sa PBA para sa akin.”

But in a country where point guards can be spotted on every street corner, what does it take to become the best?

“It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. Being there, being a barometer player,” the legendary Johnny Abarrientos says. “You need to prove yourself and you need to put a lot of extra work game in and game out. You need to have better character not only inside the court.”

For Compton, it’s more than just putting up numbers. In fact, it doesn’t even have anything to do with scoring.

“For me, my perspective, you really need to run the show. Do you make your team better? Are you a leader? Are you the coach on the floor? Are you bringing guys together?”

“Do you know the psychology of your teammates? Do you know that this guy’s getting a little down so I’m gonna call his number and I’m gonna get him the ball and pick him up? All those things. That’s my vision of a point guard position.”

Even Casio sees the point guard job as one where you must be the jack-of-all-trades.

“For sure the patience. You have to have the skill sets such as dribbling, passing, and setting up your teammates,” Casio says.

“But at the same time you have to be aggressive, you can score, and you have to defend. Especially here in the PBA, sa Pilipinas, ang daming guards na magagaling so kailangan nandoon lahat para complete package ka as a point guard.”

Most people agree: to be the best court general in the Philippines you have to be able to do it all. So is Pringle is that kind of all-around player?

“Very good player. Hard to defend but still young, but I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with here in the PBA,” Casio says.

Compton, on the other hand, weighs in on what he thinks Pringle needs to work on in order to top everybody else.

“Last year I would have said shooting the ball but he’s shooting the ball really well. I mean in terms of jump shots, not finishing at the basket,” Compton, who is also a national team assistant coach, says. “He made some shots against us off the dribble, off the step-backs, and space. He’s shooting the three well and the mid-range well. I don’t see any overwhelming weakness in his game. He’s a special player.”

Five games into the 2015-2016 PBA season, Pringle is averaging 21 points and 4.4 assists – an improvement from his average of 13.9 points and 3.9 assists per game last season, according to HumbleBola Stats.

Both Abarrientos and Jarencio say Pringle needs to improve on his shooting if he wants to truly dominate. This season, he’s already made seven triples to raise his three-point shooting percentage from 37.7% last year to 38.9% this year. His field goal shooting also perked up from 47.1% to 53.2%.

We can even throw in his game-winning lay-up over Rain or Shine in mid-November – a shot Pringle says he savored for only that night before moving past it the next morning.

Barroca says it will be a matter of consistent dominance for Pringle, the same way Castro plays at a high level all year long. While Abarrientos wants to see how Pringle will perform in a dribble-drive offense or the triangle.

“He makes good decisions with good court vision,” Abarrientos says. “He makes basketball easier when he’s inside.”

For Jarencio’s part, he still sees a long road ahead for his prized player.

“Malayo pa siya pero definitely papunta pa doon. We cannot tell,” Jarencio says. “Hard worker siya. Talagang he does extra work. Kaya blessed din siya, binibiyayaan din yung ginagawa niya.”

Compton also noticed one thing Pringle has that few players have and care to work on, and that’s emotional intelligence.

“I think he probably has a high EQ because it looks likes he’ll look for Terrence (Romeo) when Terrence hasn’t gotten the touch. He looks like he has a good basketball EQ out there on the court, which is not much talked about!”

Stanley, the person

Despite all the praise, Pringle knows what he is and where he wants to go. He’s heard all the compliments, the comparisons to the PBA’s best, and his potential to be great. But he’s not into that stuff.

“It’s all opinion,” Pringle says. “I never worry about standing out. I just worry about my work ethic, making sure I’m working hard and trying to get better and improving, and playing to the best of my availability every time I get a chance to play, and showing them what I can do.”

Pringle is hell-bent on improving his game. He’ll tell you he wants to work on his play coming off ball screens and pulling up, on his defense, his stamina, his off-the-ball defense and court awareness. Even his shooting off ball screens and “tracking defense and finding the right guy precisely.” He can go on and on about his points for improvement.

“I don’t compare myself with anybody. Everybody’s different. Everybody has a different path to how they got to where they’re at,” he reflects. “Whenever somebody tries to compare anything, it’s just in one ear out the other.”

“I know I’m gonna be good regardless in the future because I’m okay right now in the present. I don’t even want to look ahead.”

It’s not uncommon for humans to try and define what is “the best.” Parameters, rules, standards, achievements are set. But Pringle lives only for his own standards.

At the end of the day, he is not concerned about being just a great basketball player or the best point guard in the PBA – though he is already on that path. He wants to be the best version of himself always, and live and play his best each day. Like great humans before him, Pringle doesn’t wake up saying, “I want to be great and I want to be remembered so I will play basketball.”

He doesn’t dream of winning basketball awards, not even for a moment. He gets up each morning with the goal of doing the best he can as a human being.

“I am truly, honestly just happy to be a basketball player. I have a family member, my cousin I grew up with, who’s better than me but he’s not playing anymore. So it’s like, I don’t even have any dreams of becoming an MVP,” Pringle shares, remembering his first job pushing carts at American retailer Target and feeling grateful with where he is now.

“Every time I think about it, like when you bring it up, it’s like it goes into one ear and out the other one. I’m not worried about an MVP and none of that. Just playing. Everybody’s different. Just play to the best of your ability and let go of all that and everything else will be fine.”