FOR the player called ‘Man of Steal,’ Kib Montalbo said this year’s championship run holds a special place in his heart after battling through adversity early in his career.
Montalbo became a UAAP champion for the second time in his collegiate career as one of the key players in a 'mayhem' defense that carried La Salle to the title with the loss of just one game.
The title was a culmination of the work Montalbo put in after he missed the entire 2015 season due to an ACL injury. He also had to work hard for years to gain a spot in the regular rotation after he was sparingly used in his rookie year in 2013.
“I came back from an ACL. I was thankful to God that I can play. In 2013, I was on the bench. Now, I have a bigger role,” said Montalbo.
Montalbo admitted he had a difficult time keeping his emotions in check after the Green Archers wrapped up Season 79 with a 79-72 win over Ateneo in Game Two last Wednesday.
“Nung lumabas nga ako, I was crying kasi I worked hard for this,” said the spitfire guard from Bacolod.
Montalbo was the lynchpin in the Green Archers’ ‘Mayhem’ defense that saw him make league-best 42 steals in the regular season - 18 more than closest pursuer Jon Sheriff of University of Santo Tomas.
He had seven steals in one half during a game against Ateneo in the eliminations.
So it was no surprise that Montalbo was one of two players, Jeron Teng being the other, given the honor of cutting the net of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum rim during the Green Archers during the title celebration.
Montalbo, however, said it was all in the days work for the entire team after they were able to surrender to La Salle coach Aldin Ayo’s system.
In the end, all the hard work has been worth it.
“I don’t play that in my mind. I just worked hard, play defense, work on my defense, and play for my team,” Montalbo said.