JOHN Apacible has seen his collegiate basketball career reaching the lowest of lows after a string of misfortunes with Ateneo de Manila and suddenly changed his heart when he was close to taking his talents in the NCAA with Lyceum of the Philippines.
But he found a way to redeem himself and change the past reputation he created for himself in the UAAP as he decided to follow his former coach Joe Silva in University of the East.
Apacible made a bad reputation in his two years with Ateneo. He was suspended for the second round of UAAP Season 78 due to drunk driving caught in a video trying to pick a fight with another driver while bragging his “councilor” plate before he and the other six Eagles were cut from the team after failing to meet the academic quota.
The 6-foot-4 forward gained a new lease on life after Lyceum Head Coach Topex Robinson recruited him during the second semester of the 2017-18 school year.
“Last year, last sem nasa Ateneo ako enrolled ako doon tapos nagfail ako ng class ulit. So napunta ako sa Lyceum, second sem,” Apacible told SPIN.ph. “Tapos ‘yun okay naman sa Lyceum, okay naman sila coach Topex, okay naman lahat, parang mageenroll na ko dapat next school year.”
But it only lasted for one semester as Apacible had a change of heart when he learned that Silva, his former assistant coach in Ateneo and Blue Eaglets mentor moved to the UE Red Warriors as their new head coach, which made him saw an opportunity to redeem himself and revive his UAAP career.
“Tapos biglang nabalitaan ko sila coach Joe nasa UE na sa UAAP,” he said. “Okay naman po sa NCAA pero kasi dati nawala ako sa UAAP. So parang gusto ko bumalik para may maprove sa akin, sa mga tao at sa family ko na kaya ko bumalik sa UAAP.”
The product of Hope Christian High School made sure to get the blessing of Robinson first before formally transferring to UE.
“Nung nagpaalam ako kay coach Topex okay naman pero siyempre parang nagulat din sila bakit aalis ako kasi andoon ako sa recruitment nila,” he said. “Hindi na sila kumuha kasi nandun ako kailangan nila ng big man at ako sana yung papalit kay Mike Harry (Nzeusseu).”
Even Silva discouraged Apacible to transfer and join him as he had wanted his former player to think about it first and ask the permission of Robinson and Lyceum once his decision was final.
“Actually, I never reached out to him, respeto ko kay coach Topex tsaka maganda ‘yung programa ni coach Topex,” the new UE coach said. “Kaya nung nagreach out si John sa akin and he wanted to play in the UAAP, I immediately said I’ll talk to coach Topex first then, ask for his blessing. Si coach Topex naman mabait na coach ‘yan and he will understand.”
The 21-year-old Apacible did it the right way in parting ways with the Pirates, then Silva accepted his former player with open arms.
“Ngayon nung umoo si coach Topex, kukunin kita kasi number one, we’ve been together in Ateneo, number two, I know the caliber, your level of play and number three, I want to give you a frest start,” Apacible said.
The move of Apacible, however, hit a snag when his mother had second thoughts if she would allow her son to transfer to his third university.
“‘Yung mom ko sabi niya parang, ‘Ang gulo naman anak. Parang okay na diyan (sa Lyceum) kasi si coach Topex sobrang bait e tapos lilipat ka nanaman,’” he shared.
But through his eagerness and willingness to redeem his career in the UAAP, he eventually got the blessing of his mother.
“Sabi ko, ‘Mom, tiwala ka lang sakin. Kaya ko ‘to, gagalingan ko talaga.’ Pumayag naman siya,” Apacible said.
Now enrolled as BS Management student in UE, serving his one-year residency and training with the Team B of the Red Warriors, Apacible is happy to play under his former coach and has been using his familiarity with the system.
“Tapos ayun nagka-chance naman ako na andito si coach Joe. Binigyan niya ko ng chance nag-usap kami, sabi niya sige basta ayusin ko daw, magpakondisyon ako,” he said.
“Kasi si coach Joe nung naging coach ko sa Ateneo parang same program lang. Alam na niya ‘yung laro ko, same lang ‘yung mga ginagawa niya sa Ateneo tsaka dito sa UE so parang alam ko na rin kung paano siya magcoach," he added.
But for Silva, he hopes that Apacible will not waste his final chance and make the most out of his two more playing years in the UAAP starting in Season 82.
“I just told him I can only do so much, he has too much for himself,” he said. “Sabi ko, ‘John matanda ka na, this will be your last chance, if nothing pans out this year, you can’t go transferring schools again seryosohin mo na. Man up to what you need to do, aral, laro, aral laro ‘yun lang.’”
Apacible vowed to break his bad habits, which he admitted that a culture shock as an Ateneo Blue Eagle affected him before.
“Kapag kunwari magsiseason na or ilang months na lang sa season wag na lalabas. Okay naman lumabas pero sa mga bahay bahay ‘yung control lang,” he insisted. “Kasi nung nasa Ateneo ako, galing akong highschool nun, na-culture shock ako parang ganito pala rito ‘yung emotion ko sumabay din tapos parang lahat madali, lahat masarap lalo na pag player ka ng Ateneo kahit san ka magpunta.”
The UE coach believes that Apacible will not embarrass him as the big man starts to work his way on his redemption.
“Si John kasi mabait naman na bata siya medyo kailangan lang niya ng father figure, medyo misguided lang, but on the court he is an asset to any program, he can defend imports, he can shoot from the outside when he’s in shape he can get rebound,” Silva said.
“He’s still a quality player whatever you say. He’s still a lot better than most of the UAAP players playing now. All he needs is his confidence back and a chance again,” he added.
As part of the massive recruiting coup of Silva in building the future of the Warriors, Apacible also promised to work harder to get back into shape, level up his game and help his coach in slowly regaining the lost glory of UE basketball.
“Magpapakondisyon ako sobra tapos iibahin ko ‘yung laro ko tapos tutulungan namin itong UE na bumalik sa dati, ‘yung winning tradition nila, kasi parang past few years parang medyo sa dulo,” Apacible said.
“Medyo lumaki ako, nagpapapayat ako, tsaka bibilisan ko pa kasi kwatro ako so kailangan ko pa bilisan footwork ko, depensa tsaka shooting,” he added.
Silva believes that after a year of residency, Apacible will be worth the wait and could blossom as one of the best big men in the league in his two seasons with UE.
“Sabi ko naman kay John lahat ng mahirap ‘yan ‘yung masaya, ‘yan ‘yung masarap talaga,” Silva said. “It will all be worth the wait, lahat ng hardships mo. As long as you get your act together, that’s going to be worth it.”
“Sabi ko nga sa sa kanya, ‘You know me, I’m going to help you maximize your potential going to the PBA.‘ Sabi niya, ‘Opo, coach,’” he concluded.