UNHERALDED guard Robert Labagala is hopeful his eventual transfer to Talk ‘N Text could serve as a career “reboot” for him after being buried at the far end of the Barako Bull bench last season.
Labagala played his first preseason game for the Tropang Texters opposite Globalport on Wednesday at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center after getting a call-up from Talk 'N Text last August.
The 5-foot-7 guard's move to the PLDT camp reunited him with coach Jong Uichico, the man responsible for drafting him in 2010 for Barangay Ginebra.
Playing for Uichico definitely gives Labagala hope of better things to come.
“Masaya, siyempre siya (Uichico) `yung nagbigay ng kumpiyansa at break sa akin sa Ginebra. Eh sabi ko nga, sana matuloy kasi gusto ko rin maglaro under sa kanya,” said the 30-year-old native of Talisay, Cebu.
Labagala averaged 4.6 points and 1.0 assists in 19 games as a third-string playmaker in his rookie year with the league’s most popular ballclub..
The numbers were obviously a far cry from his figures with Barako, where he just played a total of nine games and averaged 3.0 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists.
But Labagala is aware competition at his position is cut-throat in the league, especially with the large influx of young guards for the past three seasons.
And while he may have more experience playing as a pro, Barako Bull coach Siot Tanquingcen has chosen to go to youngsters like Jeric Fortuna and Carlo Lastimosa.
Labagala made it clear though, he holds no grudge against Tanquingcen, knowing the nature of the business.
Shortly after his contract with Barako Bull expired last month, Labagala said he had to anxiously wait for an opportunity to get a chance to play again in the league, considering he never really had a chance to prove his worth in his four-year career as pro.
“Anxious din ako siyempre after nung Barako Bull, kasi antay antay lang talaga ako, saka nagpe-pray talaga ko na magka-team pa ako,” Labagala said.
The diminutive guard said he’s learned a lot playing alongside veterans Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa at Ginebra, and hopes to do the same with Talk `N Text with Jimmy Alapag and Jason Castro around.
“Pinagpe-pray ko talaga na sana makalaro ako dito. Eh ang Talk ‘N Text, championship caliber team ito. Saka `yung makasama ko sila (Alapag and Castro) at makita `yung samahan, gusto ko makita bakit sila naging successful (in the PBA),” he added.