Louie Vigil eyes PBA jump after UAAP lowers age limit

Although it hurts that he won’t be able to suit up for host University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tourney, forward Louie Vigil is ready to move on with his basketball life, setting his sights to a possible big jump to the pro ranks this year.

The 6-foot-3 Vigil suffered a big blow last week when the UAAP Board has lowered the age ruling on competing student-athletes in the league from 25 to 24, making him and Fil-Canadian Jan Sheriff ineligible to play for the Growling Tigers in the upcoming season that gets going in September.

But the former Jose Rizal U high school star has already accepted his fate.

“Siyempre nakakapang-hinayang kasi nag-prepare na ako and ‘yung mindset ko for this coming UAAP na. Upset, medyo nakaka-frustrate pero life goes on,” he said.

His pain was somehow eased when Tanduay coach Lawrence Chongson immediately took his services before he was utilized in the Rhum Masters’ 72-66 win over AMA Online Education in the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Despite a limited nine-minute stint off the bench, Vigil collected six points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal against a lone turnover on his debut with Tanduay.

And that’s enough to make Vigil satisfied with his initial showing with the Rhum Masters despite just a pair of training session with the team.

“Short ‘yung time of preparations pero winelcome nila agad ako. Kaya masaya ako. At least kahit papaano nakahanap ako ng mapaglalaruan,” he said.

Although he admitted that he plans to join this year’s pro league draft, Vigil added he’s also eyeing to finish his Asian Studies degree at UST where he’s now on his fourth year.

Still, Vigil can’t help but rue that he could not help the Tigers, now handled by Rodil “Boy” Sablan, in their UAAP campaign on his fifth and final year.

“Nalungkot siyempre. Mahirap kasi iwan ‘yung team,” he stressed.

“Wala pang coach ng time na ‘yun, isa lang ang liga namin, kaya ang hirap makapag-prepare. Kaya parang iniwan ko yung team pero wala akong magagawa. ‘Yun ang rule eh,” Vigil added.

With Sablan, 52, having only started to instill his system to the Tigers with a little over three months left before UAAP, Vigil believes his former teammates will have a tough job cut out for them in their bid to duplicate—or surpass—their bridesmaid finish to reigning champion Far Eastern U last year.

“It takes a lot of hard work for them. Kasi three months na lang dumating si coach Boy. Si coach Bong (dela Cruz) nga five months nu’ng na-appoint, andu’n rin ‘yung mga core players kaso pang-5th lang kami (in 2014). Hindi kami nakapasok ng Final Four. Ngayon pa kaya?” he asked.

But Vigil remains confident that the rebuilding Tigers can make a good account of themselves so long as they heed Sablan’s call and play as one, cohesive unit.

“What else they could do? Trust the coach, trust the system na lang. Next man up na lang. Kung may mawawala sa team, imposible na walang mag-i-step up sa kanila. Hopefully ‘yung mga role players dati mag-step up this season,” he concluded. – By Jerome Lagunzad

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