MANILA, Philippines – The night before Aljun Melecio made his impressive UAAP men’s basketball career debut on Wednesday, September 7, he, together with DLSU Green Archers head coach Aldin Ayo, watched clips of former Letran Knights star Mark Cruz.
“Last night, may pinapanood kami ni Coach Aldin. Kami dalawa lang sa kitchen. Sabi niya, ‘Aljun, halika dito.’ Nanood kami nang video ni Mark Cruz. Kung paano siya gumalaw. Kung paano niya gamitin yung ball screen on top,” Melecio told the media following La Salle’s season-opening win against defending champion FEU.
(Last night, Coach Aldin and I were watching clips. It was just the two of us in the kitchen. He said, ‘Ajun, come here.’ We watched videos of Mark Cruz. How he would move. How he would use the ball screens on top.)
Cruz, who is now a PBA player for the Phoenix Fuel Masters, was one of Ayo’s go-to scoring options during the Knights’ run to the NCAA title last year. Cruz stands at 5-foot-5 while Melecio is 5-foot-7, but the two are similar fearless scorers on the hardwood despite their shorter sizes.
Melecio finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in his first Green Archers game. His first shot was a step-back mid-range jumper which was followed by a pair of pull-up 3-pointers. His final field goal was a tough, off-balanced looper which was also drew a foul.
WATCH! Melecio drills back-to-back threes! #UAAPSeason79 pic.twitter.com/FaJ6ofiBVp — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) September 7, 2016
“Duon sa warm up palang sabi ko, ‘Try ko kaya ito, kahit isa lang,’” he said about his step-back J. “So yun, pag drive ko, step back, pumasok. Yun yung sinabi ni coach na, ‘Hingi ka nang ball screen. Tumira ka nang tumira.’”
(During warm up I already said, “I’ll try this, even just once.” So, there, when I drove in, step back, it went in. That’s when coach told me, “Ask for a ball screen, just keep shooting.”)
According to Melecio, who last UAAP season was the MVP for the juniors basketball division, the confidence Ayo has in him was a big reason for his performance.
“Super blessed ako na dati nag meet na kami ni Coach Aldin, kasi until now binibigyan niya parin ako nang kumpyansa and chance na mapakita yung laro.”
(I’m super blessed that I already met Coach Aldin before, because until now he still gives me confidence and the opportunity to show my game.)
Melecio, who was a +7 in 19 and a half minutes, also shared a pre-game conversation he had with fifth-year guard and teammate Thomas Torres which helped boost his morale.
“Before the game, nag usap kami ni Thomas [Torres]. Sabi niya, ‘Pressured ka ba?’ Sabi ko, ‘Oo, pressured ako.’ Sabi niya, ‘Pare, rookie ka, ganito yan - magkamali [ka], sabihin nila okay lang yan, rookie yan eh. Pero kung may ginawa kang maganda, ang galing namin kahit rookie pa. Win-win situation yan pare, so wag ka kabahan.’”
(Before the game, I spoke with Thomas. He asked, “Do you feel pressure?” I said, “Yeah, I feel pressure.” He said, “Bro, you’re a rookie, it’s like this - when you make a mistake, they’ll say it’s okay because you’re a rookie. But if you do something good, they’ll admire you for doing so because you’re only a rookie. It’s a win-win situation, so don’t feel nervous.”)
The former De La Salle Zobel standout will be back in action Saturday when La Salle aims for a 2-0 record against the 0-1 UP Fighting Maroons. Melecio already adores the atmosphere of the UAAP senior’s level, specifically how the crowd fills up.
“Compared to high school, mas masaya siya kasi maraming supporters at maraming fans. Parang every time maka deliver ka nang magandang play sa game, magiging mas motivated ka pa gumawa nang mas maganda.
(Compared to high school, it’s more fun because there are a lot of supporters and a lot of fans. It’s like every time you deliver a nice play, you’ll becoming more motivated to do even more.)
“Masaya siya,” Melecio reflected on his debut. “We want to win the next game [too]. Hindi lang ito yung game. Sana manalo ulit kami next game.”
(It was fun. We want to win the next game too. This isn’t the only game. Hopefully we win the next one as well.) – Rappler.com