TIM Cone didn't hide his sadness following the sudden decision of Jett Manuel to cease playing for Ginebra in the PBA.
"I'm saddened by it all. But it takes incredible character to walk away from the game to do something for your family," the multi-titled coach said after Manuel spoke one by one with the team on Friday morning to explain his decision.
Cone admitted he was caught off-guard by Manuel's decision to step away after just one season with the PBA's most popular ballclub.
"I was shocked to find out," Cone said. "He said he needed to go and he wasn't secured with his future here and he felt he needed to go with his future right away and take advantage of his engineering degree.
"We certainly wish him well. He's a good kid, a great character kid, and I truly think he has a future in the PBA, but we have different paths and we're gonna respect his."
Cone said the former University of the Philippines showed a lot of guts to make such a decision.
"His family wants him to get going on his (engineering) career right away. It's nice that he has that option," he said.
"A lot of basketball players get so locked into their career but they don't prepare themselves to do anything else. And the fact that he went to school and he did well in school and got his degree, he has the opportunity to be a top-flight engineer, which he will because he's a very disciplined kid. We knew that from him being here. We're sad about the idea, but I'm proud of him for making that decision."
Picked 12th overall in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, the former Maroons forward was used sparingly is his only season at Ginebra, but the 26-year-old could boast a ring after the squad's conquest of the 2018 Commissioner's Cup title.
Cone said he considers Manuel a part of the future he's building for Ginebra, alongside fellow young guns Scottie Thompson, Kevin Ferrer, Aljon Mariano, and Art dela Cruz.
That's why he regretted failing to maximize Manuel during his brief stay with the Gin Kings.
"I think the regret is I didn't give him enough playing time so he can feel good about his career. Maybe his parents didn't get a good chance to feel good about his career. When you get a guy like that, it makes you sick that you didn't get him that opportunity," the veteran mentor said.
"He's a great, great kid and he's a good representative of the game for us. He came here and worked his butt off every day in practice. The only problem is he had a bunch of veterans in front of him. It's gonna take some patience for him. But we did foresee him as a part of our future core. We felt like he was a part of that future for us."
Once a Gin King, always a Gin King, and Cone left the door wide open for Manuel if the itch to return to the PBA comes one day.
"I told him I left the door open," he said. "If he gets bored with the civilian life, he can go back to our army and keep battling with us. But that will be on to him."