AS Dondon Hontiveros hits the twilight of an illustrious basketball career, he can’t help but be thankful to see his journey come full circle.
Thirteen years after winning his first PBA title with San Miguel Beer, the Cebuano Hotshot is on the cusp of winning another one with the same franchise, this time in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) with San Miguel–Alab Pilipinas.
Hontiveros, 40, spent 10 years with the franchise in two separate stints. Player and team parted ways for good in 2012 before Hontiveros finished off his PBA career with the Alaska Aces prior to joining Alab.
In an unexpected twist, Alab would lose its primary sponsor midway through the season, setting the stage for a reunion between Hontiveros and SMC when the latter came in and bailed out the franchise.
“Sinasabi nga nila, parang napaikot talaga e. Ito yung first team ko na nag-champion ako sa PBA and when they assumed the team, pag kuha nila parang sobrang tuwa namin. Na-feel ko talaga yung sigla at na-revitalize ang mga players,” said Hontiveros.
“For me, I’m just grateful to have that opportunity again, to win for a team that I played for for a decade.”
For Hontiveros, a championship will be the ultimate reward for a team that shouldered on in the midst of a rocky start and a tumultuous mid-season marred by management and import changes.
The trials made the team bond stronger, the veteran forward said.
“Three wins away from an ABL title is ito na yung reward ng journey that we went through. Yung times na nag-change ng management, it helped us, it turned out to be a blessing,” Hontiveros said.
“We had losses, nawala kami sa top two pero napaganda dahil nakapaglaro kami sa finals dahil tuloy tuloy yung laro namin. Ganyan din nangyari sa Kung Fu at Mono, napahinga sila (Kung Fu) tapos tinalo sila ng Mono sa home court. Kami rin against Hong Kong. We were in the flow of things,” he added.
Hontiveros credited his longtime PBA rival and later Philippine team teammate and now head coach Jimmy Alapag for keeping things together in the face of chaos.
“As one of the veterans of the team, I’m just amazed at how we overcame challenges. There were situations sa mga younger players na nagtatanong kung ano na mangyayari pero si Jimmy, inistabilize niya,” said Hontiveros.
“It all starts with Jimmy. Being the leader that he is, he addresses the issue, pag meron, he makes sure the guys are really locked in and focused.”