UNIVERSITY of the East must be shaking its head seeing how good Bonbon Batiller and Fran Yu have become.
Batiller and Yu have completed their transformation from castoffs with the Red Warriors in 2016 to key figures in Letran's dream run to the NCAA Season 95 championship.
"Bago pa si coach Bonnie (Tan) at si coach Jeff (Napa) pa, nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa kanila," said Batiller, who has turned into a legitimate offensive threat for Letran.
Yu added: "Sa akin lang, binigyan nila ako ng chance makabalik kaya tatrabahuin ko lang. Blessing na lang sa akin lahat ng dumarating."
Before they got to where they are now, the journey wasn't easy for the two.
"Basura na ako eh. Tinanggal ako sa UE," recounted Batiller.
It was easily the lowest point of Batiller and Yu's careers, feeling worthless after seeing their run with the Red Warriors come to an abrupt end.
Yet for every door that close, a window opens, and that came true for both then Letran coach Napa reached out and gave them a second chance.
"Tinanong ako ni coach Jeff na, 'Saan si Fran?'" said Batiller. "Sagot ko, nasa Thailand. Sabi niya kontaktin mo kung gusto niya mag-Letran. Kinontact ko si Fran, sabi ko, 'Bata, gusto mo ba mag-Letran? Nandito ako.' Sabi niya, 'Sige, uwi ako dyan. Dyan tayo maglaro sa Letran."
"Isa lang ang sinabi ko kay Fran, sabi ko, 'Fran, kailangan natin magpakita dito, patunayan sa mga nag-doubt sa atin, mga hindi naniwala sa atin na kaya natin.'"
That redemption eventually came this year, with Letran making a stunning return to the Finals and spoiling San Beda's dreams for a perfect season and also denying it with a four-peat after an 81-79 Game Three win on Wednesday.
With the title in the bag for the Knights, Batiller and Yu couldn't be any more thankful to those who believed in them when they had nothing, all the more for Napa who didn't have to but kept faith in the two.
"Pinulot ako ni coach Jeff, pinaliguan at inalagaan. Ngayon, champion na kaming dalawa kami ni Fran," said Batiller, who fired 19 points and five rebounds in the clincher. "Ang laking pasasalamat ko kay coach Jeff."
Yu, who collected eight points, seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals in Game Three to be hailed as the Finals MVP, agreed.
"Blessed lang kami," he said.