FORMER National University players can’t help but be emotional and at the same time envious of this latest batch of Bulldogs, who finally brought the UAAP men’s basketball championship back to Sampaloc.
Two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso and Archen Cayabyab were some of the ex-Bulldogs who celebrated and at the same time cherished the team’s 75-58 conquest of the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in their do-or-die encounter on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Sobang naiinggit lang, kasi di namin naranasan ito (support by the Sy family and the UAAP championship),” said a teary-eyed Ildefonso, the cornerstone of the Bulldogs’ campaign during the 1995 to 1997 seasons.
“Pero masaya na rin kami (former NU players) kasi kahit paano, napanood namin itong celebration at nanalo sila.”
The 36-year-old Ildefonso said he only had one simple message to the team during his most recent visit in practice to the Bulldogs’ gym.
“Basta sinabi ko lang sa kanila, huwag niyo lang sayangin yung suporta ng management at ng student na nagtitiwala sa kanila, at huwag din nila sayangin yung opportunity na maglaro dito sa Finals,” he added.
Cayabyab, a key player in the school’s Final Four appearance in 2001, said the Bulldogs’ title conquest brought back memories of their time when they simply had to be content practicing at the school’s run-down gym along F. Johocson Street, in Sampaloc, Manila.
“Masayang-masaya, saka lahat ng mga nangyari sa amin sa NU, nag-flashback lahat, simula nung wala kami dating support hanggang sa ngayon na iba na talaga,” said the six-foot guard, one of the team’s resident shooters 13 years ago.
Cayabyab is hopeful this season’s championship would help the school establish a new winning tradition, with the financial support of business taipan Henry Sy.
“Sana maging humble lang sila, at huwag lang lalaki ang ulo nila. Mag-hardwork lang saka discipline para next year makuha uli nila ang championship,” he said.
“Even sa amin na walang support, pero naka-Final Four, nasa kanila na yung total package dahil sa support.”