AFTER a premature and bitter end to his PBA playing career, Junthy Valenzuela has found his way back to the game that made him famous.
The 10-year PBA veteran and two-time All-Star is now back in his native Cebu sharing his basketball knowledge to young players as the coach-in-waiting of the University of San Carlos Warriors.
“Dito na muna ako ngayon. Tapos na ang basketball career natin. Kailangang i-share naman natin whatever we learned sa iba’t ibang liga na napaglaruan,” said Valenzuela, 34, in an interview with Spin.ph at the USC gym.
Coaching became a natural path for the Bogo City native years after he suddenly disappeared from the national basketball landscape at 31 - his career cut short, he said, by a cracked tendon on his knee.
He was a member of Yeng Guiao's overachieving Red Bull teams where he stood out as a two-way player - a tough mid-sized defender and a clutch shooter who stood as a perfect complement for Lordy Tugade.
The 6-2 Valenzuela later played for Barangay Ginebra and was supposed to be part of Meralco's pioneering team in the pro league when he decided to call it a career.
“That time talaga hindi ko inakala na at age 31, magre-retire ako dahil sa injury," he admitted as he showed a big scar on his knee that served as a reminder of his career-ending injury.
“Gusto ko pa talagang maglaro noon, kaso hindi na kaya ng katawan. Namamaga ang tuhod ko tuwing lumalaro ako.
"Last team ako lumaro Ginebra, after ng operation hindi na ako naka-recover."
See Spin.ph video of Valenzuela interview:
Fortunately for Junthy, he had saved enough to start over at the end of his PBA career. The former PBA star sold his house in Pasig City and moved back to Cebu to start a four-unit taxi business.
“Talagang dapat maging mapagmahal tayo sa kinikita. Kasi hindi habambuhay ang basketball. Pwedeng mag-enjoy, pwedeng gumastos, pero dapat may limitasyon,” said Valenzuela.
Valenzuela later sold his taxi franchise to set up a pawnshop and remains a bachelor to this day.
“Ngayon may isa na kong pawnshop na binabantayan. Hopefully, soon madagdagan na siya ng outlet. 'Yun ang dream ko,” said Valenzuela of his Ahensya de Alta Pawnshop in Cebu.
“May pangarap pa kasi ako. Gusto ko muna dumami outlet ng pawnshop ko bago mag-settle down.”
He admits missing the PBA life especially when he watches the games live or on television, but channels his energy towards coaching where he has been a vital part of the USC Warriors coaching staff.
In fact, USC head coach Julian Macoy said he has decided to pass the coaching mantle to Valenzuela beginning in the next season of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (Cesafi).
“Sa kanya na ito. Siya na ang hinahayaan kong magpatakbo ng team,” said Macoy, who in fact allowed Valenzuela to run the team during an exhibition match against D-League team Blackwater.
The former PBA All-Defensive team member said he is excited about the new challenge and happy to be in a position to shape the careers of upcoming players from the basketball hotbed up South.
“Masaya na rin ako dito. Madami akong tine-train na bata,” said Valenzuela.