KYLES Lao missed out on a chance to play for a UAAP championship after forgoing his final year with University of the Philippines, but all he feels is pride knowing how far his alma mater has come from the so-called "dark days."
"A part of me is happy and proud na UP overcame the culture of losing and became a finalist this season," he said on Tuesday after gracing the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Tapa King in Cubao.
Lao was part of the Fighting Maroons squad that went 0-14 in Season 76, when he was named Rookie of the Year.
UP has since undergone a drastic facelift, ending a 21-year absence in the semifinals and making the finals for the first time in 32 years, settling for a runner-up finish against back-to-back champion Ateneo.
But Lao holds no regrets with the decisions he's made in his basketball career.
"Instead of going back to UP, I've joined a lot of commercial leagues, MPBL and D-League which I've learned a lot from. My teammates and coaches imparted a lot of knowledge on me, on how I prepare myself and how I approach the game," he said.
Having played with veterans at AMA Online Education in the PBA D-League and in Manila Stars in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), Lao thinks he has prepared well for the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft.
"I'm not saying na hindi ko siya makukuha sa UP, but it's not a bad path that I took. I have no regrets because this is where I am now," he said.
Though he was unable to fight with his fellow Iskos this past UAAP season, Lao welcomes the prospects of linking it up once again with former UP teammates Paul Desiderio and Diego Dario, who are also making the leap to the pros.
"Syempre, I would be happy to play with them. Being with familiar faces isn't bad in any case. I know how Paul and Diego play and within the system of any coach, I know I can jell with them easily," he said. "To be given the chance, it will be reminiscent of our UP Maroon days kung bibigyan kami ng pagkakataon."