AFTER a long and controversial absence, former PBA star Dennis Espino said he is happy to be back in a sport that made him a household name.
The top pick overall of the 1995 PBA rookie draft showed up at the D-League games on Thursday as one of the assistant coaches of expansion team Derulo Accelero, threee years since playing his last game in the pro league where he was among its biggest stars for close to two decades.
During that absence, the 6-5 former national team standout from Angeles City became a fugitive of the law and also spent time in jail for a serious illegal detention case filed by a former secretary in a piggery he put up in Mexico, Pampanga.
They Said It!
“Ang tagal rin tayong andiyan naglalaro since UST days natin tapos PBA so nakaka-miss." - Dennis Espino
The 15-year veteran declined to talk about the case that led to his disappearance from the cage scene, but said he was happy to be once again involved in a sport where he first made a name as the star of the multi-titled University of Santo Tomas teams in the nineties.
"Syempre unang-una nakaka-miss dahil ang tagal rin tayong andiyan naglalaro since UST days natin tapos PBA so nakaka-miss," Espino shared to Spin.ph.
Espino said initially he was glad to get out of the game after ending a career that saw him win two PBA championships with Sta. Lucia Realty. He last saw action for the Coca-Cola franchise before he was traded to Talk 'N Text in 2011.
"Well noong una, hindi ko masyado hinananap kasi almost 17 years din tuluy-tuloy sa PBA tapos sa UAAP five years," said the 39-year-old. "Kaya noong una, hindi ko hinanap kasi pahinga rin."
But Espino said it didn't take long for him to miss the sport, the reason he immediately said yes when former Sta. Lucia teammate Paolo Mendoza asked him to be one of his assistants at Derulo.
"So noong nakapag-start na ulit, tinawagan ako ni coach Paolo Mendoza. Sabi niya, 'Dennis, tulungan mo ako rito,' kaya ngayon andito na naman tayo," he said.
Although the Oilers lost their debut game in the D-League, the former UAAP Most Valuable Player is positive the expansion team can do well in the developmental league with a little more polishing and seasoning.
"First game, medyo hindi pinalad hopefully itong team namin makapag-adjust kami para gumanda rin ang takbo," Espino said. "Medyo may lapses lang sa depensa pero overall, maganda naman. Rookie lang yung team pero maganda naman."
Espino, a member of Tim Cone's Centennial Team that won a bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games, said he is looking to sharing his knowledge and experience with young players in his new career.
"Hopefully yung experience ko mai-share ko sa mga players ngayon," he said.