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After sleepless nights, Melecio decides on La Salle return

It took sleepless nights, difficult conversations, and plenty of self-reflection, but DLSU Green Archers veteran Aljun Melecio has made the decision to play out his final year of eligibility with La Salle over leaving college basketball early to declare for next year’s PBA Draft.

The Bukidnon native, who specifically pointed out attaining his degree as the biggest determining factor of his decision, confirmed this latest development to Rappler on Wednesday, December 2.

First of all yung una kong tiningnan is yung timing ng degree ko; kasi I have 3 more terms after this [current] term. So sakto lang din na I finish my college degree muna before I go pro para focus na ako doon after ng college ko,” said the incoming 5th year standout who’s majoring in Business.

(First of all, I looked at the timing, I have 3 more terms after this current term. So it just might be right that after I get my college degree, I’ll be focused on the pros.)

The former UAAP Rookie of the Year also explained that he wants to end his DLSU career in better terms. 

Melecio won a title in his freshman year as a Green Archer and made the UAAP Finals as a sophomore, but since then, La Salle has been surprisingly absent from the Final Four.

Gusto ko rin ma finish yung La Salle [career ko] since sila talaga yun reason kung nasaan ako ngayon. Like madami silang binigay sa akin na opportunities so respect lang din,” said Melecio, who added: “I want to finish my career din on a good note; na matapos ko yung UAAP na maganda.”

(I want to finish my career in La Salle because they’re the reason why I’m here now. They gave me a lot of opportunities, so it’s also out of respect. I want to finish my career on a good note and end my UAAP career well.)

Melecio believes he is making the right choice, but admits getting there has been a challenging process. 

To be honest ilang nights 'di maayos tulog ko just to decide,” he said candidly. 

Di lang naman ako nag decide ng decision na to. Also my family talaga. Nagtanong ako sa mga coaches na kilala ko na puwede kong pag-usapan yung situation ko. I gathered mga ideas na rin. Mga opinions nila ganun. So nag weigh ako ng options, kung ano mga idea nila. And yun nga nakipagusap ako with my parents and nag decide kami to finish. 

Yun talaga importante: finish ko pag aaral ko.”

(To be honest, I haven’t been sleeping well the past nights because I can’t decide. It’s not just me who’s deciding on this, there’s also my family as well. I talked to some coaches. I gathered some ideas, asked their opinions. I weighed the options. And when I talked to my parents, we decided that I should finish. That is what’s important: for me to finish my studies.”  

Sources close to PBA teams who spoke to Rappler under the condition of anonymity pegged Melecio as a late first-round draft pick who could be selected higher if certain teams are looking for a point guard – a position that’s not deep in talent in this big and wing player-heavy class. 

The PBA has yet to officially announce when its 2021 draft will take place, although sources believe it could be either in February or March. 

The UAAP has traditionally prohibited its seniors from being eligible once they declare to go pro, although sources have told Rappler the collegiate league might consider a special exception in 2021 given the unpredictable circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the event this pushes through, Melecio and other senior hopefuls would get to declare for the draft and play in UAAP Season 83, assuming the collegiate league returns in the targeted time frame in the first quarter of 2021. 

If no special rule change is applied, Melecio is ready to enter the UAAP season knowing his draft aspirations will be delayed by a year.

Sobrang lalim ng draft pero sa posisiyon [ko], di gaano,” he said. “So ayun nga nag weigh ako ng options, pros and cons kung ano mangyayari sa ’kin pag pinili ko ‘to, at pinili ko yung isa. Sometimes din kasi may mga bagay na puwede mag hintay. You just have to be patient.”

(It’s a very deep draft except for my position. So I weighed the options, the pros and cons, what will happen if I picked this choice or the other. But sometimes, there are really things that can wait. You just have to be patient.)  

Another big factor that sealed Melecio’s return is La Salle’s new coaching staff and the potential he sees in the Green Archers’ lineup. 

Melecio and coach Derrick Pumaren, who will be DLSU’s leaders, have built a solid relationship.

Actually nag-usap lang kami ni Manong (Pumaren) and sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Mag-stay ako,’ and he said, ‘Okay, great, mag-stay ka,’” shared Aljun, whose confidence in his team is rising high.

May tiwala ako sa team ko. May tiwala ako sa coaches, managers and sa system namin ngayon kaya confident talaga ako…. Alam ko na lalaban kami this season. Like buo talaga yung loob ko. Di ako nagdalawang isip. Lalaban talaga kami this season.”

(Actually, I talked to coach Pumaren and told him. ‘I’ll stay,’ and he said, ‘Okay, great that you’d stay.’ I trust my team. I trust the coaches, managers, and I’m really confident with our system now. I know we’ll be out fighting this season. I’m totally confident, no second thoughts.)

Melecio did not have a definitive answer when asked about the draft status of his batchmate, Justine Baltazar, who established himself as one of college hoops’ best big men last UAAP season and impressed many with his play for the national team in the recent FIBA Asia qualifiers.

Whatever Baltazar decides, Melecio says he will support his friend’s choice. 

Many at La Salle will eagerly anticipate Baltazar’s decision, but until then, they can find solace in that one of the school’s most popular recruits – and someone who loves what it means to play for the green and white – will return for one last dance. –