DREAMS do come true, and for coach Pipo Noundou, his was fulfilled as Enderun College finally gets a chance to test its mettle against the top teams in the 2019 PBA D-League.
It seemed like it was only yesterday when the Cameroonian first took the head-coaching job and strived to set a winning path for the oft-deglected men's basketball program.
"When they took me in six years ago, I told them I have big expectations for this program. We need to improve, we need to recruit," said the former Far Eastern University slotman, who got the job on the prodding of his cousin Christian Sentcheu.
"A lot of people thought I was crazy. The boss asked me if we can join the NCAA or the UAAP, but I told them there's a league we can join, which is the PBA D-League. They were surprised because they said it was already semi-pro, but I told them we can do it. The guys back then, they have no scholarship. Only one guy has a real scholarship when I came in and there were some rich kids, fat boys just playing for fun."
As grand as his goals were, Noundou didn't have it easy as he bid his time before finally realizing what he envisioned the program would be.
"It took a while to change the mentality from a losing mentality to a winning one. I went through a lot but I never quit. The bosses saw my dedication to make this happen," he said.
And soon enough, all his labor bore fruit.
This past collegiate season alone, Enderun finished runner-up to St. Clare in the NAASCU wars, a testament to how successful the program is under Noundou's watch.
"When we performed this year in the NAASCU, they were surprised that we entered the finals without our big man. The import didn't even play one game. When we went against St. Clare with their experience and big guy, our boss said now we see you can really compete," he said.
Now, FamilyMart-Enderun will get the opportunity to mix it up with elite competition as one of the 16 school-based teams in the 20-team field.
Noundou will parade a young yet feisty crew led by team captain Mark Nunez, Fil-Peruvian forward Valandre Chauca, and Cameroonian slotman Colincs Wabo, while also being backstopped by ex-pros Fonzo Gotladera and Marvin Hayes.
"I was telling them we're gonna be there someday and now, here we go," he said. "It's a big accomplishment for a small program like us. We're gonna be there. We'll just keep on working."