By Eriko dela Cruz
You were with the Ateneo Blue Eaglets when I first saw you play. You were with Kai Sotto, Joaqui Manuel, Jason Credo, and SJ Belangel battling Rayyan Amsali, Terrence Fortea, and Michael Malonzo and the NU Bullpups. You just completed a sweep of the elimination round and were poised to capture the title that year. The Blue Eaglets eventually won in three games, thanks to your skill, heart and swagger on the court. I will never forget the celebration flex you did after taking it hard to the basket (which earned you a stern look and a verbal lashing from Lakay). After that game, there were already rumors that you were set to go to NU. I thought, “No, maybe not. Magbabago pa isip niya”.
But things did not change, and you were in a different shade of blue the next year.
I remember your first game with the NU Bulldogs. Seeing you wear a jersey other than Ateneo felt quite wrong. I was still a fan, but it was really a fish out of water experience. You were NU’s leading scorer even as a rookie. You had a back-and-forth with Coach Tab, when you said that you were at the right place then. I was one of the ones who didn’t want to believe that and hoped that you would consider transferring and coming back home.
You had a really hard time in your second year. It was a season of heartbreak for the Bulldogs, losing very close matches against your opponents. SadNU was born out of it. I always believed in your and Shaun’s skill, and I really thought that you deserved better. As Ateneo won its three-peat and Thirdy was saying his goodbyes, there were rumors again. You were about to go back home. A few weeks later, it materialized. But soon after you made your decision, a global disaster struck.
It took a long time before you had your college debut for the Blue and White. It was really exciting, as you were reunited with SJ. You had another monster big man in Ange Kouame. You were about to play with your cousin. Your teammates are very reliable and are ready to win. As early as the first game, you showed your immense value. There were times where you would not score a lot, but the game had your fingerprints all over it. Hell, putting James Spencer into the starting five of UP was a game plan specifically for YOU. Coach Goldwyn and UP know that in order to stop Ateneo, they have to stop you.
Your Instagram showed that you enjoyed making the Final Four. We are really happy you feel that way and we hope that you would make Final Four appearances (or maybe stepladders next time?) more of a habit.
Then the Finals came. The lights are so much brighter, and the competition is so much tougher. I don’t want to speculate on what happened nor offer suggestions. I am a mere armchair analyst and you are the one born to play this game. What I want to say is that I understand that these things happen, and I know you will bounce back.
It was your first finals appearance. I am very confident that this will not be your last. Take this experience and learn from it. I want you to win a title in the seniors division. You deserve it. For now, lick your wounds. Do well in your finals. Maybe play some computer games. By the time preseason starts, I know you will be more than ready to exact some revenge.
Sabi nga ni madam VP; Tara na, ipanalo na natin ‘to.
One Big Fight, Dave. See you next season.
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