JETT Manuel shed tears at the end of University of the Philippines’ campaign in Season 79, clearly overcome by the roller-coaster ride the Maroons went through in his farewell season in college.
Manuel turned emotional when he was cheered on by thousands of UP fans who watched the Maroons’ final match of the season end in a 80-67 loss to University of the East on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Overwhelming lang to think na it’s all over especially for me,” Manuel, the Maroons' acknowledged heart and soul, said.
The ending with a 5-9 win-loss card their best record in over a decade. Along the way, the Diliman-squad climbed out of their perennial place in the cellar and stayed in contention for the Final Four down to the final playdates of the eliminations.
Manuel finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in his farewell game. Although a win would've made the exit more memorable, the crafty forward said he had a lot of good memories to take away in a season where the Maroons transformed from cellar dwellers into contenders.
“I was really thankful for all the support of my teammates gave to me and my fellow seniors. Looking at the crowd midway in the fourth, I was getting emotional already," said Manuel, clearly moved by the presence of a large gallery of UP supporters.
"It’s something to take away this season. We are sad that it didn’t end up with a win but that’s basketball. I’m going to look at it, thankful for all the blessings,” said Manuel.
Manuel said being in contention until late in the season was a welcome change.
“If someone told me or anybody at the start of the season that we will have five wins, have three losses in the second round, and have a shot at the Final Four in the dying games of the season, I think I’ll just look at you and laugh.
“Going through five years with the program, sobrang gulo, winless seasons, it was hard. But this season meant so much for me,” said Manuel.
Instead of playing for a team, Manuel said he found a family in the Maroons.
“We came together when people least expected it. We came into the season, I don’t think we were connected. But I’m happy to say that we ended up like a family talaga,” said Manuel.
As he bids the team goodbye, Manuel said this season is just the start of something big for the Maroons and coach Bo Perasol.
“Me, coach Bo, and the seniors, we came into an agreement that we have to start somewhere. This is the first season na we came to life. I’m sure that we have started something already," he said.
"I’m just hoping that under coach Bo’s leadership, the program will continue to get better because that’s what we came to do,” he added.