ALLEIN Maliksi has built a name as one of the PBA’s top gunners.
But there was a time the Meralco wingman could’ve been entrusted with a real firearm to enforce law and preserve public safety.
Maliksi recalled his time as a Citizenship Advancement Training (CAT) officer in Camarin High School, before studying Criminology at University of Manila on the prodding of his dad, who wanted him to become a cop.
“Gusto niya magkaroon ako ng decent work, magkaroon ako ng trabaho after ng college,” Maliksi looked back on SPIN Zoom In. “Eh ako, wala pa naman akong iniisip na career, so sige lang, aral lang muna ako, uwian from Morayta papuntang SM Fairview, North Caloocan.”
Toughened by the tombs of La Loma Cemetery as a kid, Maliksi was limited to playing in pickup games with money bets against fellow Criminology students in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) headquarters in UM.
But an unlikely scout saw potential in the gangling kid: the school’s bus driver, who told him to try out for the Hawks basketball team.
After a week of grueling training under coach Ato Tolentino and Eugene Tan, a skinny Maliksi wanted to quit.
“Warmup pa lang, talagang tago na ako sa CR, nasusuka na ako,” he admitted. “Hindi ko kaya yung training, yung pagod, kasi sobrang payat ko nun tapos walang proper nutrition. Walang pera pangkain, so talagang walang energy na ibigay para sa practice.”
“Pero tyinaga lang ako ng classmate ko na wag mag-quit,” he was quick to add.
Maliksi persisted and went on to play for the Hawks’ NAASCU (National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities) team for two years – leaving an imprint on the squad that went on a dominant stretch that saw it win all but one of 94 games.
Maliksi enhanced his skills by training with top commercial team Wang’s Ballclub where he met and played with PBA legends Vergel Meneses. Noli Locsin, Manny Victorino, and Jomar Tierra, among others.
But Maliksi reserved special praise for Meneses, who gave him P1,000 each time he practiced with Wang’s, eventually becoming one of his wedding godfathers.
“Laki ng help niya sa akin sa Wang’s kasi dun lumaki improvement ko,” Maliksi said of the Aerial Voyager. “Binibigyan din ako ng tips and advice tapos gusto niya magkalaban kami. Kaka-retire lang ni kuya Vergel nun, duma-dunk pa. Ayaw niya yung pickup game lang. Gusto niya competitive talaga.”
Fast forward to this year, Maliksi has come a long way as he and Meneses were alongside each other during the PBA Press Corps Awards Night where Maliksi was named Mr. Quality Minutes in the annual event where Meneses finally received the President’s Award he won in 2020.
But going back to the past, it was Maliksi’s time with Wang’s that fueled his desire to make it to the biggest stage.
“Dun ako nag-start mag-dream na makapasok ng PBA,” Maliksi said as he wanted to see more mainstream exposure and transfer to a school that plays in the UAAP.
Team owner Alex Wang called Joe Lipa at UP, but Maliksi declined, saying he had no fare money to commute from his UM dorm in Morayta to UP in Quezon City.
[See Before the PBA, La Loma Cemetery was Maliksi's playground]
Wang then tried Dindo Pumaren at University of the East. Again, Maliksi hesitated.
“Eh nahihiya ako kasi feeling ko mga varsity nun may angas, may yabang,” he said with a chuckle. “Actually hindi lang sa UE, karamihan ng varsity players. Parang takot ako ma-bully.”
Third time’s the charm as Wang called Pido Jarencio at nearby University of Santo Tomas in España.
“Ang lapit lang nun. Tawid lang, so nag-bike lang ako. Hiniram ko yung bike ni Eugene Tan,” Maliksi said as he arrived at 5:30 a.m. ahead of Growling Tigers practice at 7 a.m. in his first tryout in 2007.
Maliksi’s patience was tested as after a one-year residency, he missed one season to back-to-back ACL injuries, before the 6-foot-4 wingman finally showcased his wares for the Tigers for his first and only UAAP season.
The rest, as they say, is history.
But had that UM bus driver missed seeing Maliksi play in that street game, who knows what his future would’ve been?
“Siguro (pulis), kasi internship na lang kulang, makaka-graduate na ako eh. Yung mga classmates ko dati pulis na,” Maliksi said with a smile.
Maliksi is glad to end up where he is now.
“When I look back on my humble beginnings, I’m just thankful especially kay God. Na-bless ako eh. I just did my part – I worked hard, pero kung hindi para sa ’yo, kahit naman sino, kahit naman yung iba, nagsi-sipag din… Siguro everything just falls into place.”