La Salle Green Archers point guards Dino Aldeguer and Mac Cuan vividly recall how they helped each other during their struggles in the 1999 season.
That championship was 21 years ago. So why is that moment still being talked about now?
For context, Dino Aldeguer is still greatly remembered because of “the shot” he made that sent the Green Archers to overtime against the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the classic three-game series in UAAP Season 62. La Salle won that series in three hard fought games en route to a back-to-back title.
In an interview with Aldeguer and Cuan on the Aclan Sports Skills Factory Facebook page, Dino says: “Everybody knows about the shot but not many remember what went through that entire season. More important than that shot was the journey.”
What a lot of people don’t know is that Aldeguer struggled most of the season and lost his regular minutes during the season. But he had Cuan to thank for lifting him up when he was down.
“I want to thank Ronald (Cuan) who guided me all throughout that (1999) season. Hirap talaga, there was never a time that Ronald didn’t pick me up. Even during the game, siya talaga nag step up. He really did the job and I didn’t. The reason why I see him as a good leader because he always picked me and his teammates up,” Aldeguer remembers.
Aldeguer says that when he was working his way back up to the starting rotation, there was a crucial game that they had to win. If they won, they would’ve secured the No. 1 spot, but if they lost, they would’ve slid down to No. 4.
Aldeguer also recalls a traffic incident that could’ve cost them their season.
“I was the only one who travels from the south. Sabi ko kay Don (Allado) na sasabay ako sa kaniya papuntang game. That time, wala pang Skyway. Nu’ng nasa Sucat pa lang kami, umulan ng sobrang lakas. Here I am in the car worried and telling myself na ito na ’yung opportunity ko Lord, huwag naman ma-traffic ng husto. The game was in Ateneo and we were listening to the radio and while in the car, the radio panel says that we’re still not in the round robin. The game starts, wala pa rin kami. We didn’t make it to the game. Renren scored 33 points during that game and bailed us out,” Aldeguer remembers.
Cuan feels that he owed a lot to Aldeguer, as well.
“It started with Dino also. I wasn’t a recruit, I was a walk-in tryout. When I tried out in 96, walang pumansin sakin, I felt bad. The following year naging si coach Jong (Uichico), nakuha ako. Nu’ng nagsimula practice, there were players that were rough on me, makakaramdam na lang ako ng suntok, may mga siko, typical rookie initiation and it was hard, everybody was hard on me. But it was Dino who was there and lagi siyang lumalapit sakin,” Cuan shares
“I appreciate Dino because I don’t think makakarating ako ng PBA if hindi dahil kay Dino. Kapag di ka magaling mag-dribble kay Dino, di ka makakalagpas ng half court kasi aagawin niya talaga ’yung bola. Every day, he would toughen me up.”
Both Cuan and Aldeguer stressed that behind the struggles, it is the little things, sacrifices and trust that make championship teams.
Cuan recalls that final play in the second half: “Most good players kahit ikaw ’yung superstar ng team, you would take the last shot no matter what. But Renren passed it to his teammate to Don who was the MVP. He knew he could’ve taken the shot also then nakita n’ya si Dino and made the shot. That is the trust with your teammates that they will make the right play when it matters the most.”
It was not the Aldeguer three that gave the Green Archers their title in 1999, but all the fight and adversity that they had to go through to make the right decisions.
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