BY twist of fate, two ex-Bombers found themselves reunited at Phoenix, a partnership both hopes would be as explosive as it was before.
John Wilson couldn’t contain his excitement upon learning of the prospect of playing for college coach Ariel Vanguardia again shortly after the 43-year-old mentor landed the job with the Fuel Masters, succeeding Koy Banal at the helm just before the season-ending PBA Governors Cup.
The thrill on Wilson’s part was understandable. He played his best basketball in college under Vanguardia with Jose Rizal University, highlighting it with a Finals appearance in the NCAA Season 84 and a season MVP award the following year.
“Sobrang happy ko talaga, kasi yung coach ko sa college ang siyang mag-handle din sa akin as a professional,” said the 29-year-old shooting guard from Binangonan, Rizal of Vanguardia, who was the only coach he played for during his entire four-year stay with the Mandaluyong-based school.
So close he was with Vanguardia that he opted not to play his fifth and final year with the school in Season 85 when JRU let go of its former coach following the team’s loss in the Final Four to the San Sebastian Stags the previous campaign.
“Nung natapos yung contract ni coach Ariel sa JRU, that was the same time na nagpa-draft na rin ako. Hindi ko na nilaro yung final year ko,” he recalled.
Wilson ended up being picked by Barangay Ginebra seventh overall in the 2010 PBA Draft, but would bounced from one team to another in the next six years that saw him also suiting up for Air21, Meralco, and NLEX.
He was actually on the reserve list of the Road Warriors when Banal decided to tap his services by trading for him in exchange for James Forrester.
Just a few days after he joined the Fuel Masters, Vanguardia surprisingly arrived at Phoenix after coming fresh from steering the KL Dragons Westports to their first ever Asean Basketball League (ABL) championship.
“Na-shock din ako dahil after nung isang practice namin (during the break), na-turnover na kay coach Ariel yung team,” recalled Wilson.
The 6-foot-2 Wilson could only express his gratitude to Banal for the trust given him, especially after spending the season’s first two conferences just being on the reserved list of NLEX.
“Thank God na kinuha ako ni Coach Koy. I really feel blessed not knowing na si Coach Ariel ang mag step-in as Phoenix coach,” he said.
Wilson had suited up for the Fuel Masters in their first two games this conference, both losses at the hands of Meralco and defending champion San Miguel. He’s been averaging 9.0 points in 12 minutes of play so far.
After being out of action for almost seven months, he said it’s like starting all over again for him.
“Ang feeling ko rookie uli ako kasi ang tagal kong hindi nakalaro, almost a year,” said Wilson. “Ang maganda lang, si Coach Ariel alam niya na kung paano at hindi ako gamitin.”
Although the Fuel Masters still have to register a breakthrough win, Wilson feels it’s only a matter of time before they’ll get their acts going.
“Marami pa kaming dapat gawin, especially sa defensive plays namin,” he admitted. “Pero as what Coach Ariel used to say, have fun lang.”
Just like the old times with the Heavy Bombers.