PHILIP Cezar is considered as one of the best players to ever lace his sneakers in the PBA.
The 1980 PBA MVP was a pillar of the fabled Crispa teams of the league's early years, winning 16 championships in his 16-year professional career until his retirement in 1991. He was later recognized as one of the PBA's 25 Greatest Players.
His greatness, however, wasn't limited on the court, with 'The Scholar' later taking on coaching jobs with a number of teams. And one of those who had the privilege of being mentored by Cezar was Magnolia draftee Aris Dionisio.
The 6-foot-5 forward told CPT Crossover Podcast on how big Cezar was in his development.
"Nag-aral ako dito sa Bulacan ng college pero isang sem lang ako kasi nag-try ako sa PSBA. Doon, naging coach ko si coach Philip Cezar at tumagal ako ng four years," he shared of his time in Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA).
So big was Cezar's impact on the growth of Dionisio's game that when the legend started missing practices, his student almost lost his passion for the game.
"Kumbaga noong madalang na siya pumunta sa practice, parang nawawalan na rin ako ng gana na maglaro doon sa PSBA dahil siya rin kasi yung talagang tumulong sa akin," he said.
Fortunately, Dionisio found a new home at St. Clare and began to get noticed by scouts.
But it turned out that Cezar never forgot Dionisio.
So much so that when Manila formed a team for the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), Dionisio got a call from Cezar, who was named as the Stars' head coach.
"Tinawagan ulit ako ni coach Philip na siya daw ang mag-coach sa Manila at baka raw gusto ko maglaro. Eh di sabi ko, sige, mag-try out ako. Pinapunta niya ako pero sabi ko lang, sana magamit ako dito para ma-achieve ko yung goal ko," recounted Dionisio.
It wasn't long before he established himself as one of the best young talents in the regional league, winning the 2019 MPBL Datu Cup Defensive Player of the Year honor and earning his place in the All-MPBL First Team last season.
As Dionisio made the jump to the pros, his selection by Magnolia as the ninth pick in the first round of the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft was no longer much of a surprise.
As far as he has come, Dionisio said he owes his career to Cezar.
"Mas nag-mature ako nung napunta ako sa MPBL dahil nung college, ang iniisip ko lang talaga maka-graduate tapos uuwi na akong Bulacan," he said. "Hindi ako nabigo kay coach Philip. Tinulungan niya ako, natulungan ko rin naman siguro siya kaya siguro nandito ako ngayon."