Chris Tiu (left) and Dylan Ababou
MANILA, Philippines - Smart-Gilas national cagers Chris Tiu and Dylan Ababou said the other day they’re ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to bring back the lost glory of Philippine basketball in Asia with a ticket to the London Olympics a bonus if the team gets the job done.
Tiu, 25, and Ababou, 23, are in Serbian coach Rajko Toroman’s 12-man lineup for the Asian Games in Guangzhou on Nov. 12-27. Aside from Tiu and Ababou, named to the squad were J. V. Casio, Marcio Lassiter, Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams, Aldrech Ramos, Greg Slaughter, Jason Ballesteros, Mark Barroca, Japeth Aguilar and Mac Baracael. The roster will be adjusted to make room for Fil-Ams Chris Lutz and Sol Mercado with Marcus Douthit a possible addition if he is able to obtain his Philippine citizenship on time.
“It’s every player’s dream to play for flag and country,” said Tiu, speaking before nearly 300 student writers from 30 schools all over the nation at the UST Varsitarian’s national campus journalism conference. “In the past, the best players from the PBA represented our country. I used to watch PBA stars like James Yap, Willie Miller and Asi play on the national team. It’s a great honor to be chosen to step into their shoes. We’ve got a winning formula with coach Rajko teaching us the European style of play and the SBP giving us the international experience to toughen our game in a three-year development program.”
Tiu said he realizes it’s an uphill climb but isn’t daunted.
“I know what being an underdog is like,” he said. “When I was in grade school, I played on the Milo kids program where in a team of 15 players, everybody got to play because it was a requirement to use different sets of five each 10-minute quarter but in the fourth period, only the best players would play and I stayed on the bench. But I worked hard, dug deep to persevere. I had to be mentally tough. I was highly recruited out of high school but as a freshman with the Ateneo seniors, I hardly played. As a sophomore, I played limited minutes. I stopped playing in my third year and went to France as an exchange student for six months. When I resumed playing, L. A. Tenorio and Magnum Membrere had graduated so I got the opportunity to improve with God’s help. I told myself I wouldn’t quit, that someday, my time would come. I’ve always believed that adversity builds character.”
Ababou said he, too, was an underdog in his early playing years. “I studied at Sienna College in Quezon City from kindergarten to high school,” he said. “Sienna isn’t known for its basketball program. It’s not rich in basketball tradition. Sports is just recreation or a hobby at Sienna. When I was in fourth year high school, I was invited to try out for the Philippine 18-and-under team. Since I came from a small school, I was discriminated against. Coaches shouted at me, they looked down on me. But I strived hard. I made it as the 12th man on the team.”
Ababou, the 2009 UAAP MVP from UST, said quitting crossed his mind when he was being laughed at. But he never shirked from the challenge. The same challenge now faces him with the national team.
“God doesn’t give you challenges and obstacles that He knows you can’t handle,” he said. “He puts you to the test so you can be a better person and a better athlete. It’s an honor to be in a situation where you can play for your country. For me, the journey is better than the destination. You enjoy the journey every step of the way and make it meaningful by reaching your destination which in our case, is the Olympics.”
Ababou said there will always be pressure to perform at a high level, particularly since he’s a former UAAP MVP.
“The MVPs before me are now in the PBA, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Jervy Cruz and Ken Bono,” said Ababou. “It’s a challenge for me never to become complacent. I just have to continue working hard. With the national team, we’re a mix of players from different backgrounds and schools. It’s a great opportunity for me to be playing with guys I admire like Chris and J. V. We’re pushing ourselves, trying to exceed our limits. Right now, my priority is basketball. That means no late nights and being disciplined.” Tiu said what drives him is his desire to win. “Losing is hard to swallow,” he continued. “It’s hard to get over a loss. You can’t sleep well at night. Of course, if you look at the bigger picture, it’s just a game, you move on and don’t dwell on the past.”
Tiu said efficiency is the key in managing his time. “My priority is the national team,” he went on. “Since we practice at night, I try to do what I can in the morning and afternoon, like taping my shows or looking after some businesses or spending quality time with family and friends. It’s important to set priorities and often, you have to sacrifice.”Tiu said he’s running for reelection as a barangay kagawad but it doesn’t necessarily mean the beginning of a political career. “I was an SK chairman for five years,” he said. “My motivation is to try to help my small community in Makati in any way I can, particularly in education and sports. I haven’t decided if I’ll ever get involved in politics as a career. At this point, I don’t think so but it’s hard to say what the future will bring.”
Source: Joaquin Henson, The Philippine Star