HIS latest heroics didn’t indicate how once disheartened rookie Jamil Ortuoste was in his basketball career.
The San Sebastian freshman exploded for 28 points as he led the Stags to a 78-76 win over title contender Arellano University in their NCAA men’s basketball showdown at The Arena.
The 21-year-old Ortuoste came through in the clutch after scoring 12 in the payoff period that kept the Chiefs at bay and allowed the Stags to notch their first win in Season 89 of the league.
And to think that not too long ago, this former member of the San Sebastian Staglets NCAA champion team (2007 and 08) almost gave up playing the sport.
Following his successful stint with the Staglets, Ortouste tried his fortune with the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Unfortunately, a back injury hindered him to be included in the team’s official roster for Season 73 of the UAAP.
“Na-frustrate ako,” he admitted of the experience. “’Di na ako naka-balik (sa team), nawala ang scholarship ko.”
And so he found himself wandering back home in Recto.
Again, fate was not kind enough to him.
Ortuoste found it hard to crack the Stags’ 16-man line-up now bannered by the dreaded `Pinatubo Trio’ of Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang, and Ronald Pascual.
“Actually napanghinaan na nga ako ng loob noong time na ‘yun,” he said. “’Yung willingness ko na bumalik sa Team A ‘di na gaano.”
A break came in 2011 when his high school coach Raymond Valenzona gave him another shot of at least being included in San Sebastian’s Team B.
“Binigyan ako ng chance ni coach Raymond mapabilang sa Team B,” he recalled. “In-enroll niya ako, binigyan niya ako ng scholarship. Kaya lang ‘yung ‘di gaano ‘yung willingness ko, kaya ayun ‘di na binigay ang scholarship at ‘di na rin ako pumasok.”
But Valenzona had so much faith in his talent that he never gave up on his former player, so much so he granted him one final opportunity.
“Last year, first sem binigyan ako ng last chance ni coach Raymond,” he said.
“Sabi niya sa akin ‘pag nagloko ka pa ‘di na kita tutulungan’. Kaya tumatak ‘yun sa isip ko. Nagpursigi talaga ako para makalaro ulit.”
After years of waiting, Ortuoste finally made the Stags’ official roster and readily repaid the trust given him by Valenzona.
In his debut game alone, he poured in 16 points in 18 minutes of play in a 69-74 losing cause against the Letran Knights.
True enough, Ortuoste did not fail his mentor. When he finally had his chance to give back he scored 16 points in 18 minutes of play in their first game of the season. But unfortunately they lost to Letran, 69-74.
He then followed it up with his breakout game against the highly-touted Chiefs of Arellano.
“Motivation ko ‘yung first game ko,” he said. “At naging motivation ko din na mag-work hard kasi wala na ‘yung tatlo (Abueva, Sangalang and Pascual).
“Lahat naman sa amin capable mag-step up. Our team is one, para kaming pamilya dito.”
Based in Antipolo, Ortuoste comes from a sports-oriented family from FEU.
His father was a former junior basketball and volleyball player in the school, his grandfather a boxer, the grandmother a PE teacher, an uncle was into track and field, while his aunts were all college cheerleaders.
And now that he finally made it on his own – albeit not with FEU but with San Sebastian – Ortuoste is just grateful for the opportunity given him.
Looking back, Ortuoste said he has no regrets at all except for one.
“Worth it talaga lahat, wala dapat panghinayangan. Kung meron man, ‘yung mga panahong nasayang.”