MANILA, Philippines - Rey Guevarra.
That name was a consistent theme of PBA All-Star Friday, April 1, as the Meralco Bolts wing man provided moment after moment that will resonate with basketball fans for years to come.
Heading into the All-Star break, much of the attention focused on Chris Tiu and his budding rivalry with Larry Fonacier in the three-point shootout, or how fast Jonas Villanueva would finish in the obstacle race; when it came to the dunk contest, all eyes were fixed on reigning champion Chris Ellis, his teammate Japeth Aguilar and high-flying San Mig Coffee Mixers guard Justin Melton.
However, Guevarra stole the show and made it his own display of athleticism and creativity as he dazzled with one thunderous flush after the other.
"Sobrang saya; andito lang naman tayo para magpasaya ng fans. Honored ako na magkaroon ng dalawang award at hindi ko inaasahan ito," the soft-spoken Guevarra shared after their Greats vs. Stalwarts match.
(I'm very glad; we're just here to put on a show for the fans but I didn't expect having two awards. I'm honored.)
Guevarra shined as bright as Meralco's orange colored jerseys, turning the night into his own personal highlight reel. It was a feeling he had not enjoyed since his promising NCAA career came crashing down five years ago.
In a regular season game against the San Beda Red Lions in October of 2009, Guevarra, then a fearless wing man out of Letran College, drove hard to the basket and collided with Sudan Daniel, landing awkwardly in the process.
He tore is ACL as the Knights fell, 64-76, bringing an abrupt ending to his NCAA career.
But while most players who suffer from an ACL injury would never be the same after recovering, Guevarra rose from adversity and stood even taller.
The 6-foot-2 swing man recovered and was named to Rajko Toroman's Smart Gilas Pilipinas national squad where he would play for a year before becoming Air21's third overall pick in the 2010 PBA Draft.
He moved to San Miguel Beer, Globalport Batang Pier, before settling with the Meralco Bolts. With a heavy rotation which includes Gary David, John Wilson, and Jared Dillinger, he is only used sparingly. His Commissioner's Cup statline is just 1.6 points a game in 6.3 minutes played.
In fact, the PBA team mascots spend more time on the floor than he does. But on Friday inside the Mall of Asia Arena, the night belonged to "Papa Rey."
The 100% healthy Guevarra made the most out of the rare opportunity. He converted on slam dunks he says he had never previously converted, even during his days as a perennial participant in collegiate dunk competitions.
He feels blessed to have finally taken off again, giving the fans something to take home as fond memories.
"Thankful ako na makabalik pa rin galing sa injury at makatalon pa rin ng ganito," said Guevarra. (I'm thankful to be able to return and still jump this high.)
Asked if he is trying to re-introduce himself to the league as one of its premier wing men, Guevarra said he is just enjoying whatever chances he could get in the league.
"Tinitingnan ko lang present at yung mga opportunities na meron pa rin ako. Swerte lang na nandito pa rin at gusto lang ma-share yung talent ko sa iba," he added. (I am just looking at all the opportunities I still have today. I'm lucky because I'm still in the league and I want to share my talent to other people.)
Just 28 years old, improvement never stops for the young forward. He wants to constantly learn the ropes as he hopes to make an impact in the PBA for years to come.
"Go hard pa rin ako at gusto ko lang matuto ng matuto. Never-ending na matuto." (I'll still go hard every game; learning never ends.) - Rappler.com