ALJON Mariano acknowledged the experience of having been part of Jr. NBA Philippines in the past is one of the reasons why he is now living his childhood dream.
Mariano was picked in the second round by Barangay Gineba in the last rookie draft which he considers as the culmination of his goal to play in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
“Mga 13 ako nun,” said Mariano, the first ever product of the Jr. NBA Philippines to make it to the pro league, said in an interview with a handful of mediamen at the NBA Store on Monday.
“Parang dun rin talaga na-build ‘yung confidence ko at na-develop ‘yung character ko as a person on and off the court.”
Mariano was still playing for the San Beda Red Cubs when he got an experience of a lifetime after he was selected by Jr. NBA Philippines to become one of the country’s representatives that trained in in Oakland along with their counterparts from other countries.
Incidentally, also part of the team was Kiefer Ravena, now considered one of the biggest stars in collegiate basketball.
“Naalala ko ‘yung STAR values, ‘yung sportsmanship, teamwork, attitude, at respect. Dun ko na-develop ‘yung character ko,” said Mariano.
Aside from the training, Mariano also got a chance to watch an NBA game live at the Oracle Arena.
“Kalaro namin ‘yung mga ibang Jr. NBA teams from other countries,” Mariano recalled. “Naalala ko si Chris Mullin ‘yung nag-conduct ng training. Okay din ‘yung experience kasi Hall of Famer ‘yung nagturo sa amin. Napakaganda ng opportunity.”
As for watching an NBA game live, Mariano said: “Sobrang hindi kami makapaniwala kasi first game para sa akin ‘yun. Sa TV mo lang sila napapanood. Golden State tsaka LA Clippers ‘yun. Sila Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington. Sa Clippers, sila Elton Brand.
“Medyo matagal na, retired na si Elton Brand ngayon,” said Mariano, laughing.
The former University of Santo Tomas standout said he is now reaping the fruits of his stint with Jr. NBA after signing up with Ginebra where he will be under two-time Grand Slam coach Tim Cone.
“Sobrang okay sa Ginebra kasi halos lahat ng players inaasam nila na mapunta sa Ginebra kasi ‘yun ‘yung favorite ng mga tao sa Philippines. Mahirap noong una ‘yung adjustment dahil talagang magagaling ‘yung mga players. Okay naman ang adjustment kasi lahat kami learning the new system,” Mariano sad.