IT was almost 30 years ago when a Nieto first won a UAAP championship for Ateneo.
Now a doctor by profession, Jet Nieto was one proud dad watching from the stands as twins Mike and Matt followed in his footsteps by leading the Blue Eagles past La Salle in winner-take-all Game Three of the UAAP Season 80 Finals.
The elder Nieto actually won two with Ateneo as he spearheaded a 94-92 comeback win over the Jerry Codinera-led University of the East back in 1987 before winning it again in the first rivalry match against La Salle the following year.
Nieto has been by his sons' side for most of the season but surprisingly left them with just a note just hours before the deciding game.
“Si daddy kanina, umalis siya kaagad ng bahay tapos di na niya kami nakita. So nagsulat na lang siya ng letter sa amin ni Matt. Nagulat nga kami kasi parang hindi naman si daddy 'yung nagsusulat ng ganun. He said na, 'You just have to enjoy the moment,'” said Mike Nieto.
“Parang gusto ko nga umiyak e kasi hindi naman si daddy nagsusulat ng mga letter. He just stated there na dream namin nung bata kami, (to play) in an Ateneo–La Salle (game),” he added.
All Matt needed to hear from his dad was how he believed in them.
“That really inspired me to play,” Matt said. “He just told me he believed in me. Parang, ‘Mr. Clutch, Mr. Big Shot, I know you’ll do it. I know you’ll make the right decision. Make me proud, son.’”
The two, however, know they need one more championship to match dad’s career accomplishments as an Atenean, although the twins already won titles in the juniors division.
But whatever happens, Jet knows his sons have already left their mark in Katipunan.
“Sabi ni daddy, di ko pa siya natatalo kasi siya, back-to-back (champion) sa seniors. Ako first ko pa lang,” Matt continued. “But he’s really proud of us.”
Growing up within the confines of the proud institution in Katipunan, the brothers have witnessed the likes of Larry Fonacier and Chris Tiu win games for the Blue Eagles against their longtime rivals.
Now they savored their turn to fulfill those dreams.
“Yun ang pangarap namin and we told our parents, kami ni Matt na one day, our dreams will come true and we will win a championship against La Salle,” Mike said.
“What a way to win it in Game 3, do-or-die situation against our archrival.”
The twins are far from done in their UAAP careers, but already Matt is looking forward to the time when his own son takes his crack at a championship.
He's sure the never-say-die Nieto genes will see him through.
“Sana lalaki rin muna. Of course, tuturuan namin 'yun,” Matt said with a laugh. “Iba yung bloodline ng Nieto cause you never give up.”