DIEGO Dario almost quit the game he loves numerous times before.
Struggling to find his form as well as a place in a promising University of the Philippines squad, the fifth-year guard admitted there were times when frustration almost got the better of him.
"There were times na I thought na I’m not meant for basketball already. There were actually times na I thought I was like not gonna play basketball anymore," he said. "It always comes into my mind after a bad game, after a bad practice because it’s also been tough for me the past three years."
Despite those struggles, Dario chose to fight on.
"There was a time I felt I was like I was on the way up, but then things happen, part of basketball and also part of life. It's not always up there, and for me, I just have to keep on working," he said about averaging just 3.0 points in 8.3 minutes of action this year.
"You have to trust your hard work without any intention, without any goal in your mind. Hard work works. As cliche as it sounds, it’s true."
And then, days like Sunday happened for the senior.
Dario provided the spark for the Fighting Maroons, unleashing eight straight points to kickstart a 17-2 blast that turned a tight 63-62 edge to an 80-64 lead midway through the period en route to a 94-81 UP win over UE.
The former Batang Gilas stalwart collected a season-best 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting from downtown, to go with two steals and an assist in his 13 minutes on the court - easily his best performance in UAAP Season 81.
Those kinds of games makes Dario's sacrifices all the more worth it.
"It's a long time coming. I’ve been working hard for games like this," the 21-year-old playmaker shared. "I’ve been getting opportunities, but I still have to keep on working because this is how this happened. I kept on working, the extra hours after practice, even in game days so I’ll just keep working."
Dario's collegiate career may be coming to an end, but he hopes that performances like this one won't be a one-off, eyeing to sustain this groove in UP's coming games.
"This is just the start. I just have to do my role. We have a lot of scorers on the team so I just have to know my role. When I’m free, I take my shot," he said.
For Dario, the old adage runs true: Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.
And all he cares about is staying in the moment - one which he hopes to have a memorable ending in Diliman.
"I want to end this season by getting into the Final Four. But I don’t wanna think of the future that much," he said. "As much as possible, I stay in the moment. What can I control after this game? I'll continue to work hard."