RJ Abarrientos thought that his time with FEU-Diliman was already done at the conclusion of the UAAP Season 81.
But little did he know that he and the Baby Tamaraws will go for an encore in the 2019 Chooks-to-Go NBTC League National Finals.
Asked to support his juniors at the Mall of Asia Arena, Abarrientos suddenly found himself suiting up, giving FEU-Diliman not only a much-needed shot in the arm but also an undisputed leader.
"Alam ko pupunta lang ako, invitation lang para manood. Yun pala gagamitin pa ako ni coach Allan (Albano) ng matagal," he said.
And make an impact, Abarrientos did as the senior guard lifted the Baby Tamaraws to victories, the latest an 87-84 comeback win over Durham Crossover Canada to progress to the Fearless Four on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Abarrientos fired 20 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
Abarrientos has had 63 points through three games, 41 coming in the payoff period where the Baby Tamaraws got their act together to pull off the wins to live up to the tag of "King of the Fourth" in local high school basketball.
Abarrientos said that it's really nothing out of the ordinary.
"Siguro yung experience ko sa UAAP. Ang dami ko nang nilarong basketball, halos everyday na lang, puro basketball, so ang mindset ko lang na ipanalo yung team, kung paano ako makakatulong at paano ako makaka-recover agad pag nalalamangan kami," he said, as he hopes to share valuable lessons to his younger peers.
"Nung nakalamang ng 10 points ang kalaban, nara-rattle agad yung mga teammates ko. Iniisip ko lagi na binibuild pa lang itong team na ito, bata pa lang sila. Sinasanay sila ni coach Allan na lumaro sila together. So ako ang kailangan mag-step up to prove na kaya namin manalo."
FEU-Diliman aims to progress to the Division 1 Finals when it faces La Salle Green Hills in the semifinals on Friday.