IT’S Barangay Ginebra and not Rain or Shine which initially got an interest five years ago in an untested guard by the name of Jonathan Uyloan.
Then head coach Jong Uichico and deputy Art dela Cruz learned from a common friend about a Fil-Am player from Orange County, California who had a potential to make it in the PBA. The two eventually got hold of a old compact disc showing highlight games of Uyloan and immediately liked his style, so much so that the kid was told to apply for the 2009 Rookie Draft.
The big event came but as fate would have it, Uyloan never heard Ginebra call him up on stage. Neither did the rest of the nine other teams that he ended up being officially listed as undrafted.
But the soft-spoken guard who has a nursing degree from Golden West College Uyloan harbored no ill feelings toward Ginebra.
“I think that time, they still had (Jayjay) Helterbrand and Mark (Caguioa). So Ginebra didn’t pick me,” recalled Uyloan with a shrugged shoulder.
On Sunday night, Uyloan showed Ginebra, Rain or Shine, and the rest of the field that he truly belonged after playing a key role in the Elasto Painters’ rousing 100-90 win over the Kings that made them the first team to make the semifinals of the season-opening Philippine Cup.
Uyloan, who recently turned 31, finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field in 21 minutes of play. He also had six assists, including a no-look, Erving ‘Magic’ Johnson pass to Paul Lee in transition, which the superstar combo guard completed with flourish.
The Rain or Shine guard said he wasn’t out to prove something especially to Ginebra, a franchise which he respects very much especially its legion of fans.
“The Philippines loves Ginebra and I really respect the Ginebra fans. They were really helping their team to come back (in the fourth quarter),” he said of the match that saw the Kings cut what was once an imposing 23-point deficit to just eight points.
But coach Yeng Guiao, whom Uyloan describes as ‘intelligent and very good,' put him back in the game at the height of Ginebra’s rally. He responded by combining with Lee, and Beau Belga in finishing off their highly-popular opponents.
“If coach Yeng puts me in with five minutes left in a Ginebra game, I think he trusts me now,” said Uyloan, who admitted having to earn his spurs with the Elasto Painters, where he started as a practice player after Caloy Garcia, Guiao’s assistant, took notice of him while playing under his wings at Pharex in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
“I have a hard journey in the PBA. I started off as a practice player and had to work my way up to the rotation,” he said.
Uyloan’s loyalty with Rain or Shine rewarded him with a new two-year contract just before the start of the season, a move which he wants to pay back by helping the franchise win yet another championship.
“Yeah, but I didn’t contribute,” he said when reminded he was already part of the team that won its breakthrough league title in 2012. “This time, I want to be very much part of it.”