TY Tang could hardly believe his ears as childhood pal Chris Tiu told him over the phone the good news that they were bound to be teammates - again.
“Tumawag siya sa akin and he said na teammates uli kami,” said Tang, recounting the Draft Day experience. “It was a surreal feeling that I told him na imposible dahil hindi ka aabot sa amin. Until binigay n'ya kay (Rain or Shine assistant) coach Caloy (Garcia) ‘yung phone na nagsabi na na-draft nga siya ng team.”
Rain or Shine's drafting of Tiu at No. 7 in the last PBA rookie draft paved the way for a reunion for the childhood pals, who had been teammates at Xavier School since grade school and teamed up in high school to lead Xavier to three straight Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association titles.
The two, however, parted ways in college and ironically ended up on opposite sides of the most celebrated rivalry in varsity hoops -- Tang with La Salle and Tiu with Ateneo.
“For the longest time, after eight years of playing grade school and high school, we were separated in college and we ended up as rivals pa,” said Tang. “It was bittersweet. You are happy for him but at the same time, you feel bad about it.”
The two friends grew farther apart post college. After leading La Salle to a UAAP championship in 2007 and Harbour Centre to a PBL title that same year, Tang jumped to the pros and was drafted by Welcoat.
Tiu won the UAAP title in his final year with the Eagles in 2008 before moving on to the national team with Smart Gilas while carving a niche as a television personality and top product endorser.
But to Tang's delight, fate brought them together again at the Elasto Painters camp, Tang's only team in his pro career which also grabbed the opportunity of picking Tiu in the last rookie draft after several teams had passed up the chance.
After winning a first championship with Rain or Shine in the Governors Cup last year, the 5-7 back-up guard is now looking forward to winning a championship again with Tiu by his side.
He hopes it happens soon.
“Right now, we are teammates again, at least there are no more bittersweet feelings and more importantly, we can win together again,” Tang said.