MANILA, Philippines – It takes one to know one, they all say.
And that's exactly the case for San Miguel Beermen star Alex Cabagnot, who had nothing but high praise for NBTC All-Star combo guard Mark Nonoy.
"I've seen him play before, I covered his game in the D-League, UST versus Cignal-Ateneo. I told coach Chris (Gavina), our strongest 5, Nonoy has to be there. You just have to give them confidence and let them do their thing."
In an event where stars like Jalen Green and Kai Sotto were supposed to fight for the spotlight, it was the little-known Nonoy who shone the brightest.
After all, he led Team Hustle to an 89-82 win over Green's Team Heart in the NBTC All-Star Game on Saturday, March 23.
The 18-year-old speed freak scored Hustle's last 14 points, including the dagger triple that sent the opposition packing. As a result, he was named the game's Most Outstanding Player.
Cabagnot, who was Gavina's assistant for the game, knew that his takeover was bound to happen.
"You can't keep a good man down. Mark wasn't having a good game in the first half but you can't keep a good man down," he said. "He just persevered and grinded it out."
"He still has a lot of work to do, but he's under a good coach, under a good program," Cabagnot continued. "The best thing he can do is to listen to his coach, the elders around you."
Gavina, who has had coaching stints in the PBA and MPBL, also gave his take on the young Nonoy.
"He's like (Mark) Barroca and (Jio) Jalalon. He's good on offense and defense," Gavina said.
Despite all the praises, however, the humble Nonoy just kept his head down and let his game do the talking.
"Hindi ko ito na-imagine," he said. "First time ko, kabado pa nga e kasi malaking arena, tapos 'yung experience na kalaro mo pa si Jalen Green, 'yung magagaling na NCAA players din, pero 'yun lang, trabaho lang.
(I never imagined this. It's my first time and I was nervous because it's a big arena. I also experienced playing with Jalen Green, those good NCAA players as well, but that's it, I just worked.)
"Makukuha din namin 'to sa tiyaga. Trabaho lang 'yung team namin kasi malayo ang mararating sa trabaho."
(We would get things done if we persevered. We just need to work hard because hard work can go a long way.) – Rappler.com