THE excitement is a palpable at University of Santo Tomas since the arrival of Aldin Ayo to coach the Growling Tigers in the UAAP.
Count Embons Bonleon among those who can't wait to get started.
Bonleon, who sat out the last of Boy Sablan's two seasons in charge, is excited to work with a coach who led Letran to an NCAA title in 2015 and La Salle to a UAAP championship in 2016.
And he has no doubt Ayo can work his magic with the Tigers, who won just a game last season before firing Sablan.
“Kayang kaya basta masunod lang namin ‘yung values na gusto niyang makita,” Bonleon, who had played two seasons before skipping Season 79, said at the end of the Tigers' practice on Friday.
But there is also trepidation on the part of the 22-year-old guard knowing Ayo's emphasis on defense, which happens to be his weakness.
“I’m so excited and at the same time, kinakabahan kasi kapag sinabing Aldin Ayo, defense talaga ang forte," he said, "kaya kinakabahan ako kasi ‘yun talaga ang weakness ko.”
That's the reason Bonleon has made it his mission to get fitter before the next UAAP season, so he can keep up with Ayo's well-known 'Mayhem' defense.
“Pero excited din kasi gusto ko matuto sa kanya in preparation na din sa PBA. Madali na sa akin mag-score kaya willing ako magpakamatay everyday para lang mag-fit sa system niya,” said Bonleon.
Ayo met with the Tigers on Thursday at the UST Quadricentennial Hall where he, along with assistants McJour Luib, Bonnie Garcia, Rene Bayna, and Kristopher Co, also toured the school's facilities.
Bonleon said Ayo laid down his philosophy before the players during the team meeting on Thursday.
“Sinabi lang niya ‘yung mga priorities namin. Mas importante ang values, then next is academics, then last na ‘yung basketball sa kanya,” said the PBA D-League mainstay.