MANILA, Philippines – In just one game, the starstruck fans became the stars.
Once chided by head coach Aldin Ayo in the preseason for getting starstruck over famous players, the UST Growling Tigers responded by blitzing the star-studded UP Fighting Maroons, 85-69, to stay unbeaten in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament.
And unlike the previous game, speedy rookie Mark Nonoy had a lot to do with the win this time.
Coming off a forgettable 4-point outing on a horrid 1-of-12 clip, the teenage prospect from Negros Occidental bounced back with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists against last season’s runners-up, including the dagger three that sealed the deal in the endgame.
With a good game under his belt in the seniors level, Nonoy is just glad to finally live up to expectations.
“Sumandal lang kami sa sistema ni (coach Aldin),” he said after the game. “Kung ano ginagawa namin sa practice, yun lang yung ilalabas namin sa laro.”
(We just leaned on the system of coach Aldin. What we’re doing in practice, we’ll show them in the game.)
Prior to his debut in the UAAP seniors division, Nonoy was already lighting up the competition with the team against the big boys of the PBA D-League, where he quickly got the trust of the multi-titled Ayo.
While he has been accustomed to churning out monster numbers in the juniors level and the developmental ranks, he has never had to calm jitters in front of a crowd as big as the 12,000-strong who trooped to the Araneta Coliseum.
“Nandiyan yung trust nila coach sa akin na kaya kong i-overcome yung jitters sa sarili ko and then tinulungan nila ako mag-adjust na hindi kabahan, hindi ma-excited,” he said. “Sumandal lang kami sa sistema ni coach. Kung ano maitutulong namin sa court, 'yun lang 'yung gagawin namin. Kung ano 'yung rules na binigay ni coach sa amin, 'yun lang 'yung tatakbo namin sa court.”
(Coach trusted that I can overcome my jitters and then he helped me adjust as well, so I won’t get too nervous or excited. We just leaned on his system and did only what we can. We just ran based on the rules he gave us.)
Although Nonoy has outplayed some of the league’s established names early in the season, the young star remains grounded.
“Siyempre may kaba pa din kasi iba na ito, big arena na ito and then yung suporta ng UST community, nandiyan sila sa amin, sa likod namin,” he said. “Hindi ko iniisip kung gaano kadami yung tao, marami o kaunti. Basta gawin lang namin yung pinapagawa ni coach sa amin. ‘Yun lang yung iniisip namin.”
(Of course, I still get nervous because this is different. It’s a big arena and the UST community is there for us. I’m not thinking how many people show up. We just need to do what coach tells us to do. That’s what we’re thinking about.) – Rappler.com