AT around the same time the PBA was marking the start of the new season at the Mall of Asia Arena, its two-time MVP Willie Miller was a world away playing in a tune-up game with the Pacquiao Powervit Pilipinas Aguilas.
He didn't mind.
Now writing a new chapter in his career in the Asean Basketball League, the flamboyant Miller, now 38, said he is proud to be with a new team which he claimed can more than hold its own against some ballclubs in the PBA.
Miller likes cracking jokes, but the former Letran star is serious this time when he said his current team can beat PBA sides like Blackwater and Mahindra on any given night.
The Aguilas afterall have a team bannered by his fellow veterans like Sunday Salvacion, Carlo Sharma, Val Acuna, Emerson Oreta, Eric Salamat, Chad Alonzo, Jondan Salvador, and former two-time PBA best import awardee AZ Reid.
Also playing for the team financed by Vita Link Health Products director Dick Balajadia are Nico Elorde (Ateneo), Jeremy King (a former AMA star who scored 43 points in one game in the PBA D-League), Sam Marata, and Mike Gamboa (UP Maroons), Adrian Celada (Arellano University), Fil-Am Ali Austria and former University of the East center Charles Mammie as a second import.
“Kayang-kaya (namin yung mga 'yun). Mas matanda kami eh. Mas experienced kami. 'Yun naman ang naitutulong ng experience,” said Miller shortly after the Aguilas quashed former ABL contender Saigon Heat in ta une-up at the 3rd Fitness Lab Gym in Scout Lazcano, Quezon City.
Miller, who signed a contract with the team backed by boxing hero Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday afternoon, said he preferred to be with the Aguilas than a PBA ballclub that wouldn't respect him, recalling the time when he was asked to try out by one expansion team last year.
Miller said he hopes his teammates feel the same way.
“Sana hindi 'yun ang nasa isip nila na kailangan nilang magpatunay rito para makabalik sila sa PBA. Siguro naman alam naman 'nung ibang teams na mas maayos sila sa mga ibang players na nasa PBA eh,” he said.
“Sabi ko nga, play naturally. Play your game, be a champion, para wala silang magagawa na sila 'yung maiinggit sayo. Kasi ikaw champion ka (dito sa ABL), sila naglalaro run puro talo,” he added.
The many-time PBA All-Star said he no longer has any insecurity as far as his legacy is concerned.
“Wala naman akong ikakainggit sa kanila eh. Mas marunong ako sa basketball sa kanila. Ano ikaka-inggit ko sa kanila? Sila ang mainggit sa akin. Malaki nga lang ang sweldo nila,” said Miller laughing.
“Pero it’s not about money naman eh. Tagal ko nang sinabi 'yun. Sa akin ang basketball (talent ko), sa inyo na kung ano ang gusto niyo,” he added.
See video of interview with Willie Miller: