IT was an opportunity he had long waited for as he spent years at the farthest end of Rain or Shine's bench, staying patient while telling himself that his time will finally come.
So when it finally came, Jonathan Uyloan was more than ready.
The 15th man in hands down the deepest lineup in the PBA and a fourth choice in coach Yeng Guiao's guard rotation, Uyloan showed equal parts guts and poise while playing before more than 18,000 fans at the Big Dome as he saved the season for the Elasto Painters.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been working hard. I just needed the timing, I kept working hard so when the opportunity comes … I was ready,” Uyloan told Spin.ph in an interview conducted in a corner of Rain or Shine's dugout because he was too shy to let Guiao hear what he has to say.
The scrappy 30-year-old Fil-Am guard had not played a single minute in Rain or Shine's three previous trips to a league finals, but got an inkling that he would get an opportunity the day before Game Four after Guiao announced his starters.
“The day before the game, he tells us the starting five (for Game Four). Coz I am playing behind Gabe (Norwood), Paul (Lee), Chris (Tiu) and TY (Tang). And he had three point guards in the starting five, so I knew he was going to use me,” said the six-foot guard.
When Guiao called out his name in the first half, he jumped from his seat.
“It’s just hardwork (for me). Throughout the whole season, I really made myself ready. So, when coach Yeng shouted, “Jonathan” and he swung his head towards the floor… I was ready,” added Uyloan.
The audacious fifth-year guard made the most of his 14 minutes on the floor, holding his own against San Mig guard Mark Barroca while scoring eight points including two three-pointers in a second-quarter run that enabled Rain or Shine to set the tone for the 88-79 win.
“Plano ko talaga na bigyan siya ng chance ngayon, coz I haven’t given him any chance to play in the finals. I really put him in the rotation,” Guiao said of his ‘magic bunot.' “Ang maganda sa kanya, he was ready nung binunot siya. Alam niya diskarte.”
View video of full interview with Jonathan Uyloan:
Guiao said he had an inkling Uyloan would play well - but he, too, was surprised the guard played this well.
“I know he has an extended range, pero to do it twice (hit three-pointers) in a situation like that, it just shows you how confident he is of his game and how mentally tough he is,” said the Rain or Shine. "Bumilib ako kay Jontahan."
Guiao said Uyloan's performance in Game Five of Rain or Shine's semifinal series against Alaska convinced him to give the reserve guard a chance on Monday night.
“Hindi ko talaga siya nagagamit dati. Pero sinubukan ko siya sa Game Five namin ng Alaska nuong semis. At maganda naman ang ipinakita niya,” said Guiao.
Asked if Uyloan’s performance had given him an added problem as the July 11 deadline for all 10 league teams to announce their 'Protect 12' choices for the dispersal draft approaches, the outspoken mentor can only shake his head.
“Matagal pa naman yun,” he said. “Hindi mo pa masabi ng tiyakan kung ano pa ang sitwasyon until the coaching staff and management finalize that list.”
“(Pero yung nilaro niyang maganda) siyempre papasok yun sa considerations (para i-retain namin siya at isama sa Protect 12),” added Guiao.
Uyloan’s teammate Beau Belga was happiest for the guard who he sees everyday in practice trying to prove himself against starters like Jeff Chan and Paul Lee.
“Hardworking talaga yan eh. Hindi na rin ako nagulat sa ipinakita niya kasi kahit sa ensayo maraming pinahihirapan yan. Talagang china-challenge niya yung mga binabatayan niyan even si Paul, si Jeff … talagang pinu-push niya yung bawat isa,” he said.