CYRUS Baguio was a forlorn figure for most of last season, the best player in a bad team that only sank deeper and deeper as the campaign progressed.
Fast forward to this season and he's a completely changed man.
'Skyrus' still doesn't smile a lot or show much emotion on the floor, but his performances show he's one happy camper as Alaska Milk continued its amazing turnaround in the PBA Philippine Cup after sinking to one of the worst seasons in franchise history last season.
The Aces' two-game sweep of Meralco in the quarterfinals, capped off by an 88-70 romp on Friday night, not only moved the Uytengsu franchise to the Final Four, but it also pulled the team within a win of matching its grand total of 11 wins all of last season.
The flamboyant Baguio has stood at the forefront of Alaska's resurgence - a steady scorer and calming presence who has time and again delivered whenever the Aces needed him.
“Gusto namin talagang pumasok sa semis. Ginagawa namin lahat. Pati nga coaching staff kayod sila sa trabaho," said Baguio, a 10-year veteran who has now spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Aces after being acquired in the trade that also involved Willie Miller. "Nagbunga naman lahat ng hirap namin."
More than the Aces' improved play, Baguio admits it is the arrival of crack point guard Jvee Casio and Calvin Abueva, a talented forward with boundless energy, that has re-energized his game.
Baguio said the game has became a lot easier for him since the Aces reloaded their lineup at the start of the season.
"Swerte lang dahil may magaling kaming point guard (Casio) at may 'The Beast' pa kami, nakakagana maglaro,” Baguio said.
So confident is Baguio that he is thinking, gunning for a championship - a thought that would have been dismissed as wishful thinking just a season ago.
"Before the start of the conference, yun (championship) naman ang target namin, ang mag-champion," he said. "So every game, bigay lang namin lahat."