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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

‘Chip on shoulder’ prods Tiongson to soldier on

There will be no more 48-minute platforms for Juami Tiongson, at least for this Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season.

So in his last official appearance in the Governors’ Cup, you can’t blame the sweet-shooting playmaker for taking things seriously during an All-Star weekend side event.

“It’s all the same opportunity for me,” the Terrafirma ace told the Inquirer. “For me, I just have to make the most out of things because there was a time that I wasn’t even here.”

Tiongson was one of the biggest names left out of the 2023 PBA All-Star Game despite his sustained brilliant play for the Dyip this season. So he instead made the most of his time as one of the bets in the 3-Point Shootout at the City of Passi Arena last Friday.

He had 26 points in the first round, second only to the 28 of San Miguel Beer marksman Marcio Lassiter. Tiongson then had 18 in the final phase of the showpiece Magnolia ace Paul Lee eventually ruled.

Drafted in 2014, Tiongson said much of his outlook was forged through the crucibles of a testy sophomore year.

“I was with Blackwater, around, I think, my second year in the league. I got [my contract] bought out. I didn’t know what to do next,” he said. “All my life was about basketball. It’s everything I’ve ever known. It’s my passion, and the goal was to play as a pro. I never had a plan B.”

After that turbulent episode, Tiongson said he was ready to walk away from the sport and consider joining his boyhood friends who were at that time in aviation school. His mother suggested sticking it out with the PBA D-League for the time being, and use that time to think his plans through.

“She told me that if things didn’t work out for the better, then that’s when I decided to do whatever I want [outside basketball]. Good thing I listened to her,” he said with a smile.

“Looking back, it was that D-League stint that helped me be visible. And then coach Yeng [Guiao] got me [for NLEX],” he said.

It may seem that Tiongson caught another bad break when his career path took him to Terrafirma, which hasn’t really been a playoff-caliber team for several conferences now.

But the former Ateneo guard plays like his team is gunning for a championship. And with the Dyip one of the teams that have already played out their schedule this season, Tiongson played the shootout like his next contract depended on it, even if he eventually fell short.

“Every day, I try to play with a chip on my shoulder because I know what it’s like to be at the bottom,” Tiongson said.

“I don’t like to go back,” he added. “Whatever opportunity that crops up, I try to win it.” INQ

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