FROM practice player to starter, Ken Bono’s transformation came painfully too long, and ended up too short at the same time. But the burly big man is all good, nonetheless.
It took him three years to make his return to active roster, and surprisingly, got into the starting unit right away.
The 31-year-old journeyman played his first PBA game since the 2011-2012 season as part of Meralco’s starting unit in the team’s 2016 Commissioner’s Cup debut against Star on Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-5 center, though, wound up scoreless after missing his three shots, and grabbed just one rebound in six minutes on the court.
Still, he’s extremely happy to be back.
“Sobrang saya,” Bono said in a chat with SPIN.ph after the game. “Kahit papaano, nakakatulong naman sa team. Sana magtuloy-tuloy lang.”
The Ilonggo slotman, a member of the 2007 draft class, spent a year as a reserve at BMeg/San Mig Coffee, before moving to Meralco with the same limited role for the next two years.
That all changed, though, three weeks ago when he heard the good news.
“Sinabihan ako na ila-line up ako,” Bono said. “Kahit papaano, nagkaroon ng tiwala yung coach na i-line up ako.”
He was poised for an earlier return when he first got to Meralco, but a hamstring injury kept him on the sidelines and he has since struggled to get back.
“Nawalan din ako ng chance na mai-line up ng one year,” he said. “Nahirapan ako maka-recover tsaka out of shape ako.”
“Pero nag-work hard naman ako na bumaba yung weight ko,” he added.
Asked if there was a point in those three years he thought of giving up, the former UAAP MVP out of Adamson nodded.
“Syempre,” he said. “Kahit papaano, gusto mo rin talaga maglaro. Sa San Mig kasi sobrang lakas, kaya bihirang-bihira ka ma-line up talaga.
“Pero thankful na rin ako na nakapanalo kami ng Grand Slam dun. Thankful ako kay coach Tim (Cone),” he added.
With renewed trust from the Meralco coaching staff, Bono is relishing this new opportunity to prove his worth in the league.
“Thankful ako kay coach Norman (Black) na binigyan ako ng pag-asa at pagkakataon na makalaro,” he said. “Kailangan suklian ko lang ng magandang laro.”
“Second chance na ‘to para sa akin.”