ANTIPOLO - Hyram Bagatsing's perseverance is paying off.
Just months ago, Bagatsing was among the first group of mostly journeymen or fringe players who showed up for the first day of tryouts for spots in KIA's maiden team in the PBA.
On Monday, the 5-foot-11 guard was the game hero by hitting one of the most memorable shots of the season - a three-pointer with one second left that lifted KIA past NLEX, 85-82, in a Governors Cup game at the Ynares Center.
“I just wanted to stay ready lang if ever na sakaling tawagin," said the former La Salle back-up guard, who contributed eight points, four assists and two rebounds in the win against the Road Warriors.
That winning moment was a long ways removed from Bagatsing's struggling days where he was reduced into playing pick-up games with KIA playing-coach Manny Pacquiao as well as matches in minor leagues.
This is actually his 'second coming' in the PBA, having spent an uneventful seven-game stint with Shopinas in the 2012 season where he averaged 1.0 points and 0.8 assist in seven minutes of action.
He eventually bounced around from one minor league to other before finding a spot at Blackwater, where he won a PBA D-League championship in 2013 until he went over the league age limit of 28 last year.
Bagatsing, in essence, represents everything that is good about expansion, which gave a new lease on life to the careers of players who would have otherwise been shut off from the pro league.
When KIA made its official entry to the PBA in time for the 40th season, Bagatsing took advantage by joining more than 30 players that tried out for a spot in the team.
KIA assistant coach Chito Victolero said it was Bagatsing's big, fighting heart and work ethic that won over Pacquiao and the team's coaching staff.
“Alam mo naman si boss Manny, isang quality na gusto niya sa mga players eh yung malaki ang puso. And si Hyram malaki talaga ang puso niyan,” said Victolero.
Victolero admitted 30-year-old guard doesn’t possess the speed or the dribbling skills of KIA starting playmaker LA Revilla, but he makes up for it with his hustle, admirable work ethic and guts.
“Nung nagsimula ang KIA sa tryout, isa siya (Bagatsing) sa mga nasa first batch,” Victolero recalled. “Pero si Hyram, maganda ang work ethic niya. Masipag siya at kahit na may injury, he’s willing to work hard.”
His guts was none more apparent than on Monday night, when he dared pull the trigger with the game on the line in a play originally designed for Revilla and KIA import Hamady N'Diaye.
"I know it (game) comes down to the last shot, and ang play naman talaga kay LA, so I was just ready for the ball,” he said.
Right now, Bagatsing has caught everybody's attention.
“Right now lang talaga, I’m having the confidence because the coaches and management believed in me kasi before, I barely take outside shots,” he said.