JEFF Viernes is starting to look like a Thai especially after he made the traditional Thai greeting to reporters in which he pressed his palms and made a slight bow.
“Nit noy (Thai for ‘a little bit’,” said Viernes, when asked if he knows how to speak in Thai.
But the 28-year-old Viernes insisted nothing beats playing in the Philippines after his stint in the Thailand professional league, especially proud as he had a winning return in leading Che'Lu Bar and Grill to an 80-72 win over Gamboa Coffee that propelled the revellers to the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup semifinals.
“I’m so happy ngayon na nakabalik ako at nakalaro uli sa Pilipinas,” said Viernes, who played for Hi-Tech in the Thailand pro league.
After scoring 22 points in his debut for his new team, Viernes said he has big plans for Che’Lu as he looks to help the Revellers in their title aspirations.
“Plano ko talaga, makapag-stay at makapaglaro sa Pilipinas. Ang number one goal ko, tulungan ko ‘yung Che’Lu. Sana palarin kami na maka-finals. Kung may suwerte, makakuha kami ng championship this conference,” said the former PBA cager, who scored 10 of his total in the fourth quarter.
The cat-quick guard's PBA stint was cut short last year after he was caught playing in a ligang labas while signed up for Phoenix, which prompted him to play in Thailand the last two years.
He got an opportunity to play in the Philippines again when Che’Lu coach Steve Tiu, his coach during his previous stint in the PBA D-League and PCBL with Jumbo Plastic, contacted him.
“Last month, na-contact na ako ni coach Steve na after ko sa Thailand, baka puwede ko raw siya tulungan dito sa playoffs,” said Viernes.
Being an import, Viernes said he learned a lot from his stint in Thailand where he was one of the go-to-guys of Hi-Tech, which fell short in their title bid as they lost to Mono Vampire in the Thailand Basketball Super League crown.
“Kakaiba,” he said. “Kapag import ka, ikaw ‘yung aasahan ng team. Mindset ko, dalhin ‘yung team para makuha ‘yung panalo.”
It is that same attitude that he hopes to bring to Che’Lu.
“Dati, last D-League ko, mga 2015, 2016, hindi naman ako ‘yung beterano. Ngayon, isa na ako sa inaasahan. Gusto ko tulungan ‘yung mga bata para makarating din sila sa PBA, which is ‘yun ang dream ng mga players,” said the St. Clare alum.
As for his future plans, Viernes said he has none as he is focused on Che’Lu.
“Pinapabalik ako (Thailand) pero sabi ko, stay muna dito. Pahinga muna,” said Viernes.