Tiongson on verge of quitting basketball before being plucked out of oblivion by Guiao
Juami Tiongson was toiling in the D-League, unsure of what the future holds, when he was invited by Yeng Guiao to try out for a spot at NLEX. Dante Peralta

JUAMI Tiongson is making the most of what he considers a second chance in his PBA career.

The young NLEX guard admitted almost quitting basketball for good until he was plucked out of obscurity by coach Yeng Guiao and gave him a new lease on life as far as playing is concerned.

Thanks to the trust given him by the champion mentor, Tiongson is now playing his best basketball with the Road Warriors, more so on Sunday when he scored a career-high 21 points in a 109-99 win over Globalport Batang Pier in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The point guard out of Ateneo was 5-of-7 from three-point range, with four of the treys coming in the fourth period and helping NLEX turn back a last-ditch comeback by the Batang Pier.

His renewed spirit he owes everything to Guiao and NLEX management after taking him in from the free agent market following a one conference stint with AMA in the PBA D-League.

"Who would have thought. Muntikan na talaga akong mag-quit. Ayoko na talagang maglaro after what happened," said Tiongson, 26.

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A first round pick (12th overall) by Blackwater in the 2014 draft, Tiongson was given a three-year contract by the team. But the surplus of guards at the backcourt prevented him from reaching his potential.

By the time he was in the final season of his contract, Blackwater decided to let him go.

"Buy-out nila yung contract ko, kasi marami ng guards doon, na-draft pa nila si Ayel Banal. So four guards na kami doon, kaya ni-release na lang nila ako," he said.

Tiongson understood the situation, but led to to doubts on whether he has what it takes to play in the PBA.

"Na-down siyempre kasi I worked hard naman and yet it didn't work out," he said. "So I want to quit basketball and do something else."

But he gave himself one last chance. Tiongson took his act to the D-League.

"I don't want naman to get stuck sa D-League," the NLEX playmaker admitted. "I just want to give myself a chance. If it is there, it's there. If it is not, it's not."

He made good enough an impression at AMA that Tiongson caught the eye of Guiao. Soon after he was called to report to NLEX to try out for a spot in the team.


"I noticed he was playing well in the D-League and we needed a back-up point guard at the time," recalled Guiao. "I was able to see him at Blackwater before and so I had a pretty good idea of what he can do."

There was no turning back for Tiongson since then, obviously earning the trust of Guiao that he has become a part of NLEX's regular rotation.

"Very thankul for coach Yeng, kay boss Ronald Dulatre, and sa NlEX management.," he said. "Sobrang thankful talaga kay coach Yeng for this opportunity. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be even here in the PBA."

This doesn't mean Tiongson holds a grudge against Blackwater.

"Thankful ako sa Blackwater dahil sila nag-draft sa akin. Wala ako sa PBA if not for them," he said. "Hindi lang ako nabigyan ng chance doon dahil madami talaga silang guards."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos