Free agent pick-up Leo Avenido exactly what doctor ordered for inexperienced KIA
Leo Avenido was a steadying presence for KIA in the thriller. Jaime Campos

OTHER than being back in the country’s premier league, veteran Leo Avenido is happy about giving expansion franchise KIA Motors a semblance of stability in its campaign in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

After getting a call-up following his stint with the Saigon Heat in the Asean Basketball League (ABL), the 6-foot-2 guard readily made his presence felt by providing a steadying presence to a young Carnival team in a stunning 88-78 upset of newly-crowned Philippine Cup champion San Miguel on Wednesday.

The proud product of Far Eastern University came off the bench and finished with nine points in his return stint in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, typifying KIA's gung-ho attitude in the match.

“Champion sila (Beermen) pero pare-parehas lang kaming mga players,” he said.

Athough Avenido admitted the Carnival still have a lot of work to do to be a title contender, he remains confident they have a good chance of contending for a playoff spot in the mid-season tournament as long as they work hard.

“Lahat naman may tsansa eh. Depende na lang kung paano mag-trabaho ang mga players at depende na yan sa attitude ng mga players,” he added.

[See Carnival atmosphere as KIA sends champion SMB crashing back to earth]

The victory was even made special after the Carnival pulled it off without giant import Peter John Ramos, who fouled out with still over four minutes to go and the outcome of the game still hanging in the balance.

Avenido also kept reminding KIA’s young and inexperienced players to stay calm in the face of a furious fourth-quarter comeback mounted by San Miguel.

“Basta maging aggressive lang, kasi di naman ako kagalingan mag-dribble, pero siguro sa pagiging veteran ko, sinasabi ko lang sa mga batang players namin to settle down,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The 34-year-old Avenido admitted at this stage of his career, his only wish is for him to retire on a high note.

“Unang-una, masaya ako kasi nakabalik ako (in the PBA). May edad na rin tayo, pero mas maganda rin siguro mag-tapos ng maganda ang nilalaro mo sa career mo,” said Avenido, selected 10th overall pick in the 2002 Rookie Draft by Coca-Cola.

The Carnival return to action on Sunday, hopefully with playing coach Manny Pacquiao back from his US trip as they face the unbeaten Barako Bull.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava