FOR someone who’s fond of pulling pranks, everyone thought it was just another from former PBL player Thirdy Mariazeta.
It turned out this one’s for real.
The former point guard of Tanduay in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL) died of a heart attack while doing his regular morning jog on Sunday morning.
He was 43.
Ginebra team manager Alfrancis Chua, Mariazeta’s former coach at Tanduay, said the player’s running companions initially thought he was just joking around when he complained of chest pains.
“Akala nung mga kasama niya nagbibiro siya kasi si Thirdy mahilig magpatawa 'yan. Masayahing tao 'yan,” recalled Chua about the 5-foot-7 point guard.
On the court, the diminutive playmaker was all business.
Chua coached Mariazeta beginning in high school at University of Santo Tomas, taking the team as far as the finals of the UAAP juniors tournament before settling for runner-up honors behind Adamson in the late 80s.
But it was with Stag Pale Pilsen (later Tanduay) in the PBL that the two would achieve immense success after winning a total of seven championships including the league’s first ever grand slam in 1995.
Mariazeta served as back-up guard to Bal David and Derick Bughao, and later to Alvin Morante.
“Very dedicated siya sa game at sa paglalaro,” said Chua of Mariazeta, who became close to him because the player happened to be a nephew of former PBA player Itoy Esguerra, the longtime deputy and good friend of Chua.
Mariazeta never made it to the PBA as a player, but Chua recalled he recommended him to become assistant team manager of Tanduay when the franchise moved over to the pro league.
The two parted ways after Tanduay left Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, but would see each other from time to time.
In recent years, Mariazeta gained weight that he took up triathlon to get back in shape, according to Chua.
During the holiday season, the former UST playmaker again gained a little weight, so much so he decided to shed the excess poundage by running.
It proved to be his last.
“Nakakabigla at nakakalungkot,” said Chua. “I just want to remember all our happy moments together.”