Heading into the titanic matchup against powerhouse La Salle, NU big man Matt Aquino was under the impression that he—though in uniform—will be spending the entire time on the bench.
The 6-foot-9 cager’s assumption came after he was deemed ineligible to play for the Bulldogs in Season 79 no thanks to him spending weeks in the US for training, a violation to his residency according to the UAAP Board.
In the second canto, however, Aquino received a pleasant surprise when NU head coach Eric Altamirano called him for duty.
“Nalaman ko lang na pwede na nung tinawag ako ni coach Eric. Akala ko hindi talaga ako makakalaro. Nag dress up lang talaga ako to support the team,” said a wide-eyed Aquino minutes after the Bulldogs dropped their first match of the season, 66-75.
Talking about the temporary restraining order obtained by NU to halt the ruling, he adds: “Wala talaga akong alam. ‘Yung management lang talaga tsaka si dad ‘yung nag-usaap. Ako nagte-training lang ako sa team.”
The shock might have played a big role on Aquino’s first hurrah for Nu as he finished with 3 points, 3 rebounds and an assist in almost 15 minutes of playing inside the hardcourt.
Though both failed to stop the onslaught of La Salle center Ben Mbala, Aquino was a shade better than teammate Alfred Aroga, who, in almost 22 minutes of playing time, scored a measly 2-point output on top of 3 rebounds.
“Kulang pa ‘yun. Kayang kaya ko pa mag contribute. Kulang pa ‘yung ginawa ko. Hindi talaga ako prepared. Nagulat ako eh,” admitted the transferee from Adamson.
“Gusto ko lang matulungan si Alfred (Aroga) na madepensahan si Mbala. Kulang pa. Ang dami niyang offensive rebound eh. Kailangan pa mag improve ‘yung box out namin,” he added.
Though his anticipated debut for the Sampaloc squad was tainted with a loss and the uncertainty of how long the TRO will hold, Aquino heaved a sigh of relief as he finally got to show a glimpse of what he has to offer.
Hoping against hope that the decision will eventually be overturned, the son of former PBA star Marlou Aquino looks forward to move on from everything that has hindered him from shining in the collegiate ranks.
“Sana talaga (ma-reverse ‘yung decision) kasi gusto ko talaga tulungan ‘yung team eh. So sana magbago talaga ang decision nila. Hindi ko alam anong problema nila eh,” he said. — By Mac Dionisio