MANILA, Philippines – Anton Asistio may have always been overshadowed by his talented teammates, but the Ateneo team captain wouldn’t have it any other way.
Asistio thinks his early struggles with the Blue Eagles – from being a bench warmer to getting relegated to Team B to fighting for the last spot – all pushed him to work harder and play a key role in Ateneo’s back-to-back UAAP title romp.
"I was sent down to Team B, but instead of seeing it as a downgrade, I looked at it as an opportunity – an opportunity to get better – because the fact that they sent me down means I still lack something as a player," said Asistio, Ateneo’s lone graduating player this season.
Even Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin admitted to have doubted Asistio’s abilities as an undersized shooting guard.
"When I looked at him, I saw a point guard. I saw his size, and then we tried him at the point, and it wasn't long after that when I said: 'Well, who else are we gonna put in the roster because he's not gonna make it?'" recalled Baldwin.
"He's too short, he's too weak, he's too slow, and he can't handle the ball.' And this is all true, and he knows it. And so at least I had to give him a fair shot and tell him those things.”
No matter how painful, Asistio took note of all the criticisms and decided to work on them. After all, it wasn’t the first time he got rejected.
The 5-foot-10 cager – who only racked up 6 points in his first two seasons – revealed that he was actually cut from Team A twice, the first right after his rookie year when he trained with Team B the whole summer, but was eventually given a slot in the final lineup as a filler.
When he was relegated to Team B for a year in 2015 under former Ateneo coach and now UP mentor Bo Perasol, Asistio admitted that it felt like a dark time for him. But he made sure not to bring his disappointment on court and decided to work harder in Team B – which he eventually led to a Fr. Martin Cup title where he tallied a career-high of 45 points off 7 triples.
Although he felt like he has gotten better, Asistio – who played for the Ateneo varsity team since grade school – actually braced himself for a third rejection under Baldwin.
"During the summer, one of the coaches told me and another player that we're battling for the last spot on the team,” Asistio shared during the Ateneo thanksgiving mass.
“In my head I thought: 'Grabe, fourth year ko na and last spot pa pinaglalaban ko? (Really, it's my fourth year already and I'm still battling for the last spot in the UAAP roster?)"
Still, Asistio never stopped trying to prove his worth.
“[So] what did we end up with?” Baldiwn asked.
“We ended up with a guy who got in the weight room, changed his body, changed his mentality, continued to be a great shooter, became very dependable handling the ball, and also is one of our more dependable defensive players. So of course, he's [now here] as a graduating senior with all the laurels that he deserves because he worked his tail off to get them." – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.