The True Value of Bacon Austria

The ball is in the air. Ateneo fans are quiet for a few tenths of a second in anticipation of a made basket. Bucket! 2 points on a Ravena pull-up jumpshot.

It can be easily justified why Blue Eagle fans anticipate a made basket on just about any shot that the Blue Mamba takes. It is self-explanatory.

However, we cannot say the same thing about Bacon Austria. Whenever he would make an offensive move and then throw up a shot, I could feel the Ateneo side collectively cringing because everyone expects that there would be a rebound; sometimes violently caroming off the board.

Unfortunately for him, it has been like that ever since people realized that his MVP game in the Junior ranks would not translate in college. Fans and critics alike have low expectations of him. Can anyone blame them? As a wing player this year (and practically most of his college career), he hasn’t been making open shots and that’s why defenses have been sagging and playing off of him. As a result, his man can have help responsibilities; which leads to poor spacing. Poor spacing then leads to bad shots and turnovers, ultimately stalling the second unit’s offense.

Evidently, Bacon Austria has been an offensive liability.

If that’s what you think of him then I don’t blame you because it’s somehow true. But then again shot-making is only one aspect of the game. Austria’s inability to make shots aesthetically trumps his true value: that of being the coach’s extension on the court.

Even from his Grand Slam days in 1989 Norman Black has always been a coach who preaches defense. If you watch and appreciate defense you will see how Bacon Austria is being a leader by defending well. Because of his size, bigger and taller players cannot overpower him. He stays in front of quicker guards by using his smarts; backing off of non-shooters and studying his opponents’ tendencies. Bacon is also a good help defender; rotating well to open shooters and covering up big men coming off of pick-and-rolls.

Take for example the game against UST a while ago. Jeric Teng scored two consecutive baskets on post-ups against Kiefer Ravena and Kirk Long and looked like he was getting his rhythm. Not until Bacon covered him. In that short span that he guarded Teng, he forced one turnover, two bad shots and a 24-second violation.

Yes. Ateneo’s offense may slow down when he is on the floor but the other team’s offense slows down even more. If you watch the Eagles’ games closely you would notice that they normally break away from their opponents at the 6th minute mark of the 2nd quarter and build a double-digit lead at the half. That 6th minute mark is when Black subs his starters back in and more importantly, that’s the time when the second unit has completely disrupted the other team’s offense.

Offensively, Austria’s value can be realized by keenly observing Ateneo’s offensive sets. In one instance against a game against NU, the offense seemed to be in disarray after a failed attempt in transition. Bacon simply pointed to the spots where his teammates should be and the offense got set. The result was a wide-open Juami Tiongson converting a 3-ball off a pass from Bacon. It seemed like it was Austria who made the shot as Assistant Coach Sandy Arespacochaga was pointing at him with intensity, crediting him for fixing the offensive set.

People don’t expect Bacon Austria to make shots. I don’t either. But next time, join me in watching him wreak havoc on defense and maybe you will also be cringing when the guy he defends misses a shot badly.

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