ANTON ASISTIO has always looked up to Jai Reyes.
Both coming from Ateneo, it was only logical for the 25-year-old to idolize his 33-year-old senior.
"Ever since 2008, nanonood ako ng Finals ng Ateneo-La Salle, idol ko talaga siya," he professed.
The 5-foot-8 court general continued: "Siya na rin yung isa sa role models ko nung bata ako kasi hindi rin ako kalakihan. I thought that he's one of the best na pwede kong gayahin yung laro."
The similarities aren't really hard to pinpoint.
Despite standing at 5-foot-7, Reyes never backed down from any challenges and earned his place as the starting point guard for coach Norman Black and won two UAAP crowns with Ateneo.
It's pretty much the same case with Asistio, who carved a reputable resume with the Blue Eagles and won two titles in the seniors division under coach Tab Baldwin before he bid Katipunan goodbye.
"Maliit din siya. Yung shooting niya at matapang din, yun ang nakita ko sa kanya before," said Asistio.
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Last year, the two had a chance to team up for Bataan Risers in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), with Asistio relishing the chance to be guided by the veteran Reyes.
But here in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup presented by TM, it's a different ballgame.
Quarterbacks for their respective squads — Reyes for Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards and Asistio for Bacolod Master Sardines — they have shown no love lost between them as they truly went at it when their paths crossed in the group stages of Leg 1.
"Kita niyo naman pisikal," Asistio looked back with a laugh as he relished the opportunity to have his mettle tested by his idol.
Asistio sought to prove that he could stand toe-to-toe with the grizzled Reyes in the 3x3 circuit while also leading the charge for Bacolod.
"It's an opportunity for me to show my leadership, but I wouldn't say pressure 'cause we're not the most talented team dito. But that doesn't mean na we don't expect to win. Expect pa rin namin sarili namin to go all the way," he said.
Yet as intense as their matchup was, Asistio reiterated that no matter what, he'll always hold Reyes in the highest regard.
"Competitors kaming dalawa, ayaw namin magpatalo," he said. "Pero kahit nagkakainitan, at the end of the day, we're still friends and idol ko pa rin siya."