A FEW years ago, Larry Muyang was playing in an obscure basketball league in Sta. Ana, Pampanga against 'ligang labas' veterans, most of them twice his age.
On Sunday, he was in a green and white uniform helping lead La Salle to victory in the UAAP.
The fairy tale-like journey from the remote Pampanga town to the country's premier college league is just the latest in a string of successes for a burgeoning stable managed by the province's vice governor Dennis Pineda.
Muyang recalled how the basketball patron, son of Pampanga governor Lilia Pineda, recruited him to be part of his stable after seeing him in action in a bush league in San Fernando, Pampanga when he was just 15 years old.
“Naglaro ako sa San Fernando. Tapos parang nanood sila,” Muyang recalled. “Doon nila ako kinuha.”
“Mga matatanda,” said Muyang, when asked who his opponents were during that time. “Mga 30 plus.”
Pineda’s stable has of course produced the likes of Arwind Santos, Ian Sangalang, Ronald Pascual, and Calvin Abueva, who is now starring for the Gilas Pilipinas team in the Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha, China.
Like the 'Pinatubo Trio' of Abueva, Sangalang and Pascual who led San Sebastian to an NCAA championship, the 6-5 Muyang was tapped to join the school's Team B in preparation for a stint with the Stags.
But a falling-out between the school and former top supporter Pineda led to Muyang's move to Taft along with other players in Pineda's stable.
The move proved to be crucial for Muyang.
“Iba ‘yung pakiramdam ko na sa La Salle ako napunta,” said Muyang on being part of one of the high-profile teams in the UAAP. “Sarap ng feeling.”
“Never ko naisip na mapupunta ako sa La Salle. Nung first year ko kasi galing ako sa Baste, hindi ko alam na dito ako mapupunta,” Muyang added.
After taking residency, the 20-year-old has wasted no time carving his niche in a La Salle team that badly needed a solid big man after the departure of Arnold Van Opstal and the eligibility row that delayed the arrival of Ben Mbala.
His coming-out party came on Sunday afternoon when he posted a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds while blocking four shots in the Green Archers' 71-64 victory over University of the East.
La Salle coach Juno Sauler was no doubt impressed.
“Larry has been playing well. He gets the points when the guards create. He can rebound and he has good timing. He also has a quick feet and he can jump quick. That’s why he was able to get four blocks today,” said Sauler.
For Muyang, he was thankful for the trust given him by his coach.
“Ginawa ko lang naman ‘yung best ko. More on defense ang sabi ni coach. Parang binibigyan ako ng kumpiyansa ni coach na maglaro,” said Muyang, who was averaging four points and five rebounds prior to the UE game.