JUAMI Tiongson’s tremendous play on the PBA spotlight is a product of the work he puts in behind the scenes.
After all, the Terrafirma star makes it a point to be an early bird in Dyip practices, arriving at WinterPine Center in Quezon City ahead of training sessions that start at 7 a.m.
But just when he thought he’s already the hardest-working player on the team, Tiongson would be surprised to arrive in practice and see a veteran teammate already drenched in sweat.
That’s what makes Alex Cabagnot impressive.
Juami Tiongson on mentor Alex Cabagnot
“Even though ilang championships na siya, sobrang passionate pa rin niya sa laro,” Tiongson said of the nine-time PBA champion on SPIN Zoom In. “Kaming dalawa, alongside Pao Javelona, kaming tatlo po usually yung maaga sa practice, so nabibilib po talaga ako kay kuya Alex.”
“Paminsan mas maaga pa siya sa akin. Nandun sa siya ng 5:30,” he added. “So the fact that he’s still working, parang ikaw mahihiya ka na ma-late sa practice eh.”
Turning 40 on December 8, Cabagnot is still going strong and is immediately back to tip-top shape after missing nine months due to a torn Achilles tendon.
The 2005 PBA Draft second overall pick even saw the most action among Dyip locals with 39 minutes in his first game back in the Commissioner’s Cup, putting up 13 points, nine assists, and four boards to be one of bright spots in a 124-110 loss to Converge last September 24.
That’s what inspires Tiongson to sustain his own fine play as the Dyip’s best player.
The 31-year-old Tiongson said Cabagnot, now on his 17th year in the league, encourages him to lift more weights to prolong his own career.
“Before, yung weights ko pasulpot-sulpot lang kasi natatakot po ako na baka mawala shooting ko,” Tiongson said with a smile, debunking that myth as he has so far made 10 of his 21 three-pointers for a solid 48-percent clip in his first three games.
“Invest sa body,” he added as per Cabagnot’s advice. “Kailangan pangalagaan yung katawan. Hindi lang yung skill-work yung i-work on, pero yung weight rin, yung pagkalaki ng katawan, tsaka yung health rin, kasi lately, nagka-injury na rin po ako.”
Apart from listening to Cabagnot’s advice, Tiongson is also trying to pattern his game after that of the lefty playmaker.
“We all know kuya Alex is a scoring guard. Yun nga rin po yung tina-try ko i-emulate sa kanya,” Tiongson said. “Sinasabi niya sa akin, ‘You have to be more aggressive. You have to get the ball more.’ So with him there, mas nagkaka-kumpiyansa ako.”
“Sinasabi ko sa kanya, “Kuya Alex, just keep pushing me. Keep encouraging me. Pag alam mong wala ako sa huwisyo, pagsabihan mo ako,’” he added. “And true enough, yun po parati niyang ginagwa. Super unselfish po niya sa court.”
That allows two scoring playmakers to co-exist on the court at the same time.
“Sinasabi niya na, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll find a way. Basta ikaw, you get your rhythm.’ Yun yung gusto ko kay kuya Alex: very unselfish niya talaga,” Tiongson said.
“Dami ko pong natutuan kay kuya Alex. To the smallest details, ang dami ko talagang natutunan, how he works,” he added.
After mirroring Cabagnot’s practice habits and playing style, time can only tell if Tiongson will also taste at least a measure of the same team success as his veteran teammate.