Juami Tiongson relishes new role at NLEX Road Warriors

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WHEN one door closes, another opens. Such is the case of Juami Tiongson, an up-and-coming point guard who nearly gave up playing professional basketball and embark in another career.

Last season, Mr. Tiongson, who was in the final year of his three-year deal with Blackwater, was bought out of the Elite.

“They already had four point guards. They even drafted Ael Banal,” Mr. Tiongson told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Tiongson wanted to continue playing in the PBA, but with no other takers, he brought his wares to AMA Computer College in the D-League. At 29, he felt this could be a make or break for him.

That changed until Mr. Tiongson got a call from the NLEX Road Warriors camp.

Under head coach Yeng Guiao, Mr. Tiongson was able to gain more confidence as he was given more opportunities to play. Proof of that was his steady plays as he became an instant contributor to the Road Warriors, who had made a turnaround in the Governors’ Cup, winning seven of their nine games to stay in contention for the top four.

Mr. Tiongson couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I’m speechless. Not long ago, I was playing in the D-League along with the AMA players. Who would have thought? I nearly quit after what happened to me in the PBA. I’m thankful to coach Yeng (Guiao) and boss Ronald Dulatre for this opportunity. I would have quit basketball and do something else if it not for them. I don’t want to be stuck in the D-League at 29, until I got this opportunity,” added Mr. Tiongson.

With NLEX, Mr. Tiongson knows he has to compete with the minutes in the same way that he has competed with guards better than him, including Kevin Alas and Alex Mallari.

But the former Ateneo guard is ready for the challenge.

“It’s a big thing when you play them everyday in practice. You’re playing against one of the best guards in the PBA. When I went up against them in practice, my confidence gets higher as well. I’m thankful to coach Yeng because of this opportunity. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be here in the PBA. He always gives me chances. Whether I do bad or I do well, he always brought me back in the game. It raises my confidence,” said Mr. Tiongson.

Whether it’s garbage time or crucial situations, Mr. Guiao was able to utilize Mr. Tiongson more, giving the exposure he needs to toughen him up.

“I want to play my role. With coach Yeng, he’s not asking too much from his players. Mostly, play with a lot of heart, play with a lot of effort. When I’m in the court, I play with a lot of effort,” he added. — Rey Joble