FROM a player in Isabela to a champion in the UAAP, that is what LJ Gonzales is aiming for in his stint with the Baby Tamaraws this season.
The 18-year-old Gonzales is on the cusp of winning a title for the Baby Tamaraws after he helped his school draw first blood in the Season 79 finals of the UAAP juniors basketball tournament against National University.
Gonzales is thankful for the opportunity he has gotten for FEU, especially considering his humble beginnings.
A player from San Mateo, Isabela, a town near Cauayan, Gonzales flourished into one of Region Two’s finest cagers that he was able to land a spot in the team represented Cagayan Valley in the 2015 Palarong Pambansa in Tagum City.
Before coming to Tagum, however, they played a series of tune-up games in Manila in preparation for the Palaro where they played against University of the East and Far Eastern University.
“’Yung tune-up namin sa FEU, galing ako sa Isabela, pumunta kami dito sa Manila. Nanalo kami,” Gonzales recalled.
FEU coach Allan Albano was left impressed with the kid in the tune-up game and asked immediately if he wants to play for the Baby Tamaraws. He even went to Tagum to see him play at the Palaro.
“Sinabi ni coach kung gusto ko raw ba maglaro sa FEU. Nung Palaro, pinuntahan din niya ako,” said Gonzales.
Albano was successful in luring Gonzales to FEU and his decision to move to Baby Tamaraws is something he has since cherished.
“Sobrang saya dahil napunta ako dito. Hindi ko naman akalain na mapupunta ako dito at makakalaro dito,” said Gonzales.
The recruitment has been paying off for the Baby Tamaraws.
In just his second playing year for FEU, Gonzales is averaging 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals as one of the court generals of his team in Season 79.
FEU advanced to the Final Four in Season 79 where Gonzales was instrumental in leading the Baby Tamaraws, scoring 22 points in the semifinal win against Ateneo.
With their team this deep into the season, Gonzales has only one hope for the Baby Tamaraws.
“Sana mag-champion,” said Gonzales.