THERE was a time in his career when Ato Ular was relegated to being Letran’s representative to the forgettable NCAA Slam Dunk competitions in the past.
Those days are certainly behind him now.
Now Ular is one of the integral pieces in coach Bonnie Tan’s Knights squad and again met expectations in an 82-80 overtime win over the Perpetual Altas on Friday.
The 6-foot-4 pride of Tarlac City notched his best game in NCAA Season 95 as he scored 19 points, 13 rebounds and a block in 30 minutes of action as the Knights won their third straight after an opening-day loss to the Pirates.
“Masaya ako kasi napapatunayan ko na kaya ko. Kasi nung unang taon ko parang wala lang ako, ngayon talagang pinapatunayan ko lang na kaya ko,” Ular said.
“Tapos binibigyan ako ng break ni coach Bonnie, pinapasok niya ako at may tiwala siya sa akin, binabalik ko lang yung tiwala ni coach Bonnie.”
Ular last played in the NCAA three years ago before getting stuck in the reserve pool the next two years.
During that span, Ular was left to represent the Knights during those slam dunk competitions while honing his skills in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League for the Marikina Shoemasters.
Left out of the roster for the longest time - the 6’4 forward remained confident, betting on himself that his time will eventually come.
Now it’s time for the payoff.
“Hindi ako nadiscourage talagang nasa isip ko babawi ako at makakabalik ako, babalik akong mas magaling at mas malakas,” said Ular who’s posting averages of 11.7 points and seven rebounds in four games.
Ular has been out of the line-up for so long that his coach looks at him as a rookie entering this season.
But Tan is more than willing to give his so-called ‘rookie’ some time, knowing what Ular is capable of.
“For me he’s still a rookie.Natututo parin every now and then. So good thing he wants to prove something cause he studied in Letran for two years and nakareserve siya,” Tan said.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanya ito na oras mo. Atleast he’s showing that he’s improved a lot.”
Tan was actually expecting this breakout game a whole lot sooner - knowing Ular’s rebounding prowess.
It came a tad late - their fourth match to be exact, but it’s something Tan will take.
“Nakadouble double siya ngayon but we got him because of his good rebounding skills. The past two games, single digits lang siya,” Tan explained.
“So tinakot ko to, pag single digits parin rebound mo, gagamit na ako ng ibang bigs. So ayun medyo natakot ata, kaya he has 13 rebounds.”
Ever the competitor though, Ular vows to do more in the following games - as they earlier agreed upon.
“Kulang pa coach, dalawa pa dapat, 15 rebounds ang usapan e,” Ular said with a smile. “Kung anong papatrabaho ni coach gagawin ko talaga. Kung anong sasabihin niya gagawin ko basta manalo lang kami,” he added. “Next game 15 na, di pwedeng bumaba ng 15.”