CHRIS Tiu was an integral part of Ateneo’s first of five straight UAAP men’s basketball championship under Norman Black.
And the experience certainly ranks high on Black’s memorable moments with the heady guard, who played his final PBA game Saturday with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than that. That was my first championship with Ateneo and I won during his senior year. So that was a big moment for me,” said Black prior to Meralco’s crucial Governors Cup game against San Miguel at the Big Dome.
Although he won four more titles with the school, Black never got the chance again to handle Tiu, who was selected by Rain or Shine in the first round of the 2012 rookie draft and played with the franchise for his entire career.
While the 33-year-old Tiu, a member of the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas team, failed to reconnect again with Black in the pro league, the champion coach was certainly happy with the way his former player managed to play a key role in the Elasto Painters’s rotation – from former coach Yeng Guiao to current mentor Caloy Garcia.
“Chris is a smart guy,” said Black. “I’m happy that he really had a good career in basketball, starting back in Xavier, with Ateneo where we worked together, and here in the PBA with the Rain or Shine team.”
Black said Tiu is still as competitive as the young players of today for him to consider retiring from the game.
“Looking at it from my outsiders’ point of view, I’m a little bit torn because he’s still a little bit too good to retire. He’s still a very capable player in the PBA and he haven’t played for me (yet),” he said.
Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo, who also worked with Tiu at Ateneo in the past, agreed with his long-time coach.
"It's an early retirement for him given his years and ability to still play at a high level, but I have no doubt he'll continue to succeed in this next phase of his career," said Trillo, who was team manager of the Blue Eagles when Tiu was still playing in college.'
"A gentleman on and off the court. A great teammate with exceptional leadership, Chris has been a winner at every level - grade school, high school, college, and at the pro level," Trillo added.
But for someone who had known Tiu from his college days, his decision didn’t surprise Black at all.
“I guess when he first entered the PBA, he didn’t really have the intention to stay in the league for very long. So he probably outstayed what he thought he would stay here in the PBA,” said Black.
“He had been talking about this three or four years already. I’m surprised more that he lasted this long in the PBA,” added Black.
And even after his playing career, Black knows the sky’s the limit for Tiu, who comes from a prominent business family and has a television career as a host.
“There’s a lot of options other things that he can do with his life other than play basketball,” said the Meralco mentor.
“But he knows himself better than we do. So he probably thinks that at this point in life, its’ the best thing for him,” said Black. “But there’s no question he can still play.”