RJ Jazul reminisces as present and former teams battle it out in PBA finals
As a rookie, RJ Jazul first played for Rain or Shine, the same team he and the Alaska Aces are battling for the PBA Commissioner's Cup title. Jerome Ascano

RJ (Rafael Joey) Jazul was writhing in pain as he slumped on the Araneta Coliseum floor late in the third quarter of Game One of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.

Just a moment before, a solid blow found its way to his mid-section (which officials failed to see) that knocked the wind out of the Alaska Ace guard. He was immediately recalled to the bench and following a needed rest, was recalled to the playing court by coach Alex Compton, good enough to finish the game which Rain or Shine won, 105-97.

There was now a smile on Jazul’s face when he was asked about the incident later, which he said ‘I knew was coming.’

“Ready naman ako. Nakita ko na e,” he admitted. “Kasaman naman sa laro yun, wala namang problema.”

Of course, that’s Rain or Shine basketball, a system of which he was previously a part of.

While it may only be six seasons ago, but it appeared to be a forgotten truth that it was in Rain or Shine where Jazul’s pro career all began, the very same team which his Alaska team is now battling for the championship of the mid-season conference.  

For the Aces’ combo guard, this best-of-seven title series gives him a sense of nostalgia.

Except for Paul Lee and the other late additions in the Elasto Painters’ roster, everyone else was there for Rain or Shine when Jazul suited up for the ballclub as a rookie in 2010.

“Masaya, nakikita mo kasi yung mga dati mong kakampi, dating coach, dating management,” said the former Letran Knight, rattling off names from Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Jireh Ibanes, to coach Yeng Guiao as among those he used to play for and play with at Rain or Shine.

Alaska originally owned the pick on Jazul, but later traded it to Rain or Shine, which the Elasto Painters used to tab the 30-year-old gunner as the 15th overall selection in the 2010 draft.  

But the partnership lasted for only a season.

“Knowing Rain or Shine, heavy guards (kasi sila), kaya we separated ways,” Jazul recalled.

Air21 became the next destination for Jazul, a part of the pool of the original Gilas Pilipinas under Rajko Toroman.

“I went to Air21 under coach Franz (Pumaren). Medyo nagkaroon ako ng mahaba-habang break doon,” he recalled.

This time, the alliance didn’t even last a year. By the third conference of the 2011-12 season, Jazul found an interesting taker in Alaska, which finally saw the potential in him during his short stint with the Express.

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Jazul was no longer around when Rain or Shine won the franchise’s first ever league title. In the same manner, he finally found his calling with the Aces, where he became part of a champion team in 2013 and now serves as the starting point guard of the 30-year-old franchise.

Young as he is back then, Jazul said it didn’t occur to him to have hard feelings against the Welbest franchise.

“Hindi naman. Napaganda rin naman para sa akin,” he said. “At tsaka very thankful ako sa Rain or Shine kasi sila ang nag-draft sa akin. Malaking pasalamat ko talaga kay coach Yeng at sa management.”

Once the reminiscing was over, it was back to reality for Jazul.

“Malungkot nga lang dahil talo kami,” said the Alaska guard, who finished with just five points on 1 of 5 shooting and had 2 rebounds and two assists. “Bawi na lang, they need four naman t to win (the championship).”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos