After almost quitting basketball in college, Reden Celda's perseverance now paying off in PBA
Mahindra guard Reden Celda all smiles after his breakout game for Mahindra. Jaime Campos

REDEN Celda was a member of the National University team that made history three years ago when it captured its first UAAP men’s basketball title in 60 years.

But he never really managed to shine in his stint with the Bulldogs as the spotlight fell mostly on celebrated teammates Troy Rosario, Gelo Alolino, and Glenn Khobuntin.

On Sunday night, the rookie guard finally got the chance to introduce himself to a huge crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Playing his best game as a pro, Celda delivered in the clutch as he steered Mahindra to a 122-121 overtime win over Phoenix in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

With the Floodbuster trailing in the waning seconds of the extra period, the Davao native took matters into his own hands and buried a one-handed floater off import Jameel McKay to barely beat the shot clock.

Celda ended up with a career-high 25 points – including 13 in the third period – on 11-of-17 shooting as he helped Mahindra stay statistically alive in the race for a berth in the quarterfinals.

“Tapon na yung tira ko na 'yun, two seconds e (shot clock). Nakita ko kasi yung import baka ma-block ako, kaya nag-extra dribble ako tapos tinapon ko na lang.Buti na-shoot,” the Davao native recalled of the winning play.

[See Breakout game by Celda aids great Mahindra escape against Phoenix in OT thriller]

It was a glorious moment for the 25-year-old Celda, who unknown to many, almost quit the game shortly after the Bulldogs won the championship in 2014 as the frustration of not being able to play almost overcame him.

“Nung college ako, gusto ko ng tumigil sa basketball, parang gusto ko ng umuwi ng probinsiya,” he admitted.

“Ang feeling ko kasi hindi ako nabigyan ng opportunity sa NU kaya yung pagmamahal ko sa laro nawala. Ang once nawala yung pagmamahal sa ginagawa mo, useless na,”Celda stressed.

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But he credited his partner and family for pushing him to persevere.

Eventually, he was drafted eight overall by NLEX in last year’s rookie draft, although he never got to play for the Road Warriors as he was traded to the Floodbuster in the deal that involved Gilas player Bradwyn Guinto.

Unlike in college, Celda was more patient waiting for his chance this time.

“Nag-aantay lang naman ako ng chance kasi kung hardwork naman ang usapan, di naman question yun (sa akin),” said the Mahindra rookie, who never fails to do extra work after team practices.

Finally given the moment, Celda seized the opportunity.

“Nung binigyan ako ng opportunity (ngayon) hindi ko sinayang ito,” he stressed. “Thankful ako kay coach Chris (Gavina) kasi grabe yung trust niya sa akin as a rookie.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos